Waitangi Day celebrations – An MP’s perspective

February 12, 2018

Last week I made a brief trip to Waitangi in the Far North, not for the first time but it was definitely my most significant visit to date. This was because it was the first time I had visited as part of the commemorations of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Te Tiriti or The Treaty of Waitangi was first signed on the 6th of February 1840 on the grounds of James Busby’s house – now known as the Treaty Grounds – at Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands. Te Tiriti was signed by representatives acting on behalf of the British Crown and, initially, more than 40 Māori chiefs. Over the course of the next seven months, copies of the treaty were toured around the country to give other chiefs the opportunity to sign. The signing had the effect of securing British sovereignty over the islands of New Zealand while ensuring protection of Māori and maintaining a partnership with them.

As a nation we have celebrated the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi on the 6th of February with a national day.
While commemoration events are held right around New Zealand commemorations at Waitangi usually commence on February the 5th when political dignitaries from all political parties are welcomed by the local iwi. This is an opportunity for iwi and politicians to engage in robust dialogue to discuss the impacts and the history of the Treaty. Sometimes these discussions have been seen as controversial as there has been much disagreement and diversity of opinion over many years.

This year saw less controversy than in previous years but our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Jacinda Adern reminded us, however that, “As a nation we embrace the fact we speak frankly to one another, we’re open, we cherish of freedom of speech and our diversity, why should that be suspended for one day of the year? I see that as part of our celebrations and something we should embrace and feel proud of. That’s who we are and that’s who we’ve always been.”

While I couldn’t stay for the public commemorations in Waitangi on the 6th of February I felt incredibly privileged to be part of the festivities the day before. Standing where Te Tiriti was signed 178 years ago was an amazing experience and I would highly recommend that, if you ever get the chance, you travel to Waitangi at least once to commemorate what many now call the birth of our Nation.

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Jan Tinetti

About Jan Tinetti

Jan Tinetti is a Labour List MP based in Tauranga. She was elected to Parliament at the 2017 election. Prior to this she had a long career as a primary school teacher and principal. When not in Wellington she lives in Tauranga with her husband, Dave.

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