Thousands attend Waitangi, as PM pledges to be 'open, frank and honest' in partnership with Māori

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Today’s Waitangi Day came with a pledge from the Prime Minister “to be open, to be frank, to be honest” about Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnership between the Crown and Māori in New Zealand. 

But when it came to issues such as child poverty, National leader Judith Collins said Jacinda Ardern has “got a big job to do”. 

Thousands of people were served up a Kiwi BBQ breakfast by Ardern and Labour and Green MPs, as well as Ardern’s father Ross Ardern and fiancé Clarke Gayford.

Asked if Covid had impacted the turnout of Waitangi Day, with groups such as the Māori Party not attending this year due to Covid-19 fears, Ardern said the amount of people that were served breakfast had increased. 

About 2500 people had lined up across the Treaty Grounds to be served. 

Ardern said Waitangi Day gave an opportunity to reflect on the last year.

“How we’re progressing, our partnership, our relationship, but also constantly looking forward with hope, there are things that we need to do better at, that I do absolutely believe that you get a real sense here of optimism about what can be achieved. 

“One of our strengths going forward is our ability to be open, to be frank, to be honest about where we are in our partnership, where we’ve fallen down and where we need to do better and Waitangi serves as a place we can do that.”

Ardern told media she did not feel as though the Government should have to “paper over our imperfections”. 

“We will only improve if we acknowledge where we need to.”

Talking to 1 NEWS while bagpipes played in the background, Opposition leader Judith Collins explained what she meant when she addressed the crowd at the Dawn Service, saying New Zealand must learn from our mistakes but be brave enough and not let our history limit us. 

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for the last few days and also thinking about how as a nation, yes we must look backwards and acknowledge the past, but we must also think very positively about our future. 

“Just because things haven’t always been certain ways doesn’t mean they can’t be. One of the great things in New Zealand is constantly knowing that we must never limit ourselves individually. 

“We have people in Waitangi who have come because they want to be part of something they feel very strongly about, as nationhood.”

She said the Government would have “big challenges as they really haven’t delivered significantly when it comes to Māori”. 

Giving the example of child poverty, Collins said Ardern had “a big job to do”. 

In response, Ardern said she rejected Collins’ comments and said her Government “will always be the first to put our hand up and say we need to do more”. 

The day started with a 5am Dawn Service outside Te Whare Rūnanga, where Ardern, Collins, Elizabeth Kerekere for the Green Party and ACT leader David Seymour spoke to those gathered. 

The Waitangi week saw numerous announcements, kicking off with a promise from Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to overturn the “uneven playing field” for Māori wards on local councils, in an effort to increase Māori representation, while National made the decision to stand in the Māori seats again, after being “absent from the Māori electorate contest for too long”, according to Collins. 

On Tuesday, Labour's Māori caucus were welcomed onto Waitangi's Te Tii Marae - the first time politicians have been able to return since 2017.

Official proceedings were relocated to Te Whare Rūnanga Marae, the Upper Treaty Grounds, in 2018 after rising tensions. 

At the same time, a $150 million fund was announced to grow assets for Treaty negotiations with Ngāpuhi. 

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Andrew Little said the fund was created so there was more options for Ngāpuhi in future negotiations.

“It will help ensure that ngā hapū do not miss out on opportunities for investment while they work towards negotiations,” he said. 

Wednesday saw the additional of New Zealand history into school curriculum a step closer, with the content now up for public consultation.

It was announced at a service to mark the 175th anniversary of the battle of Ruapekapeka, where about 20 Māori and twelve British fatal casualties were remembered. 

The Parliamentary pōwhiri on Thursday saw the reveal of the date of the new public holiday to celebrate Matariki announced, beginning on June 24, 2022, and set to move around each year. 

Debate was also sparked during the pōwhiri after National deputy Shane Reti said he was disappointed his party's leader was not allowed to speak. Shortly after, Ngāti Hine iwi leader Waihoroi Shortland said it would change next year. 

Speaking to media after, Collins said it was “actually all about all women, wahine toa, who wish to be able to be able to have their say”. 

"And that's really important - we've spent so much time talking about racism, let's just think about sometimes, every girl gets a chance too."

The next morning, 1 NEWS political reporter Maiki Sherman said as a wahine Māori she didn’t feel it was Collins’ place as a wahine pākehā to be criticising tikanga Māori “which she knows nothing about”.

“It wasn’t sexist, it was tikanga Māori. I think it was a political misstep for her to criticise in that way and [to criticise] tikanga Māori.”