Kelvin Davis: Waitangi Day - defining who we are and who we want to be

Opinion 05/02/2019
Kelvin Davis. Photo: Supplied.

By Kelvin Davis, Minister for Māori Crown Relations

OPINION: This Wednesday, people throughout Aotearoa will join together to mark the signing of our country’s foundation document - Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Our nation’s approach to Waitangi Day can evoke strong feelings. It is a day when all of us – Pākehā and Māori – get the chance to reflect on who we are as a nation.

This will be a particularly special Waitangi Day for me, as it will be my first Waitangi as Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti, a role in which I support the Crown in being a better Treaty partner.

Leading up to Waitangi

For many of us, Waitangi goes beyond the span of a single day. For our Government, the lead-in to Waitangi began last Friday when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led a delegation to meet about 200 representatives of the Iwi Chairs' Forum. There, the PM reaffirmed our promise to do things differently for Māori. She highlighted that our upcoming Wellbeing Budget will be a reflection of a Māori world view.

Later that afternoon, Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta and I travelled across the ditch to join thousands of Kiwis living in Australia at Sydney’s Waitangi Festival on Saturday. It’s an important way these New Zealanders - especially the one in six Māori living in Australia - remember their connection to their homeland.

Waitangi Day isn’t always easy for us, but it couldn’t be more important in defining who we are and how we want to be as a nation

Back in Aotearoa, we continued the lead-up to Waitangi by announcing a number of major investments in our regions through the Provincial Growth Fund. These investments will help to unlock the economic potential of whenua Māori, strengthen Kaipara district’s transport infrastructure and food and horticulture sector, and support regional workers and employers. Creating jobs and boosting our regions are two major ways we can make a real difference to the future of our country.

Dignity and respect

This year, we’re building on the success of Waitangi 2018, and continuing to lead with dignity and respect. That’s why, at this year’s Government Pōwhiri, all political parties walked on together, with an equal number of speakers for each party. After speeches, all MPs joined together in singing a waiata.

Photo: Supplied.

That’s also why, for the first time, earpieces for a simultaneous interpretation service were provided. In the past, people have missed certain nuances and jokes – now, every person welcomed at the pōwhiri was able to understand everything that was said. Until the day where all in attendance can understand te reo, this translation service ensured as many people as possible were included.

Waitangi Day isn’t always easy for us, but it couldn’t be more important in defining who we are and how we want to be as a nation. I believe we become a better country when we embrace Waitangi Day and Te Tiriti from which the day draws its meaning. We should be positive about where we are going as a nation, as we increasingly give Te Tiriti its rightful and ongoing place in modern New Zealand.

However you choose to acknowledge the occasion, I wish you and your whānau a safe and happy Waitangi Day.

Kelvin Davis is a Labour MP and Minister for Māori Crown Relations.