He aha te mea nui o te ao. What is the most important thing in the world? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. It is the people, it is the people, it is the people. (Maori proverb)
A day for all New Zealanders
By Roger Childs
Whatever people’s ethnicity, Waitangi Day is for all New Zealanders. In 2018, it marks the 178th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, sometimes called “our founding document”.
This agreement guaranteed certain rights to all people living in the country at the time, both Maori and European, in exchange for British sovereignty.
Sadly in recent years, the formalities at Waitangi have been marred by protests, political grandstanding and the jostling of dignitaries.
Hopefully today will be a time when we celebrate unity in diversity, and media reports will focus on people getting together in positive ways and enjoying the national holiday.
So far the prospects are looking good for the celebrations in the Bay of Islands. Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has set a very positive tone this year with an extended stay in the Far North.
Bicultural to multicultural
In 1840 New Zealand was a thinly populated country with peoples from two cultures:
- descendants of Polynesian migrants who began arriving a few centuries before
- settlers of European origin, mainly from Britain, Western Europe and the United States.
Today we are a cosmopolitan society with citizens from almost every cultural and national group on the planet.
So the biculturalism of 178 years ago has given way to rich tapestry of ethnic influences in the 21st century.
Whatever their origins, all the people of New Zealand are equally important, and Waitangi Day should celebrate our diversity and the cultural differences in our society, as well as the many things we have in common as Kiwis.
A beautiful day
There is great weather around the country and, if Kapiti is anything to go by, people are out enjoying themselves.
Down in Wharearoa Farm there were plenty of people wandering around the tracks and plenty of mountain bikers heading up the hill.
- In Paekakariki the cafes were doing a roaring trade and no doubt there were heaps of folk doing the challenging Te Araroa Trail from Pukerua Bay.
- Meanwhile in Queen Elizabeth Park there were scores of people having tram rides, riding on horses and visiting the Marine Memorial and replica hut.
- At Whareroa Beach there were over 60 cars at 1.00pm with families enjoying themselves swimming, picnicking and having barbeques.
- The Splash Pad was very popular at Raumati and there were no free car parks nearby. (I first saw one on these in South Korea twenty years ago and should have taken-up the New Zealand franchise!)
No doubt elsewhere around the country the local population and visitors were doing similar things and having a pleasant and relaxing summer’s day.
That’s what our national day is all about: no political debate, jostling visitors and arguing over who has rights to what.
Just enjoying the holiday and having time for family and friends.