5000 people gathered in Pōneke on Waitangi Day to show their support for Te Tiriti. Here are some of the words I shared.

 

Tēnā koutou katoa. I acknowledge mana whenua, the organisers and other speakers, and all of you who have gathered here. I acknowledge the rangatira of 1840 who signed Te Tiriti. I mihi to them for their inclusive, unifying and generous vision. Te Tiriti is the relationship, the agreement through which all of us who are tangata Tiriti have a place here. As Annette Sykes reminded ministers at Waitangi, the Queen’s stated intent was one of mindful kindness. She committed on behalf of all who were to come to these lands, to a peaceful relationship with tangata whenua. A relationship in which both parties have autonomy and can flourish. In which Māori have authority over the things of importance to them – lands, language, ngā taonga katoa and tangata Tiriti have ability to have systems that work for and reflect our differing needs and communities. Where there is a space in between for negotiating issues of shared interest and concern.  

 

The Crown’s action since signing Te Tiriti has been to establish and exercise government in breach of the agreement, it has been the violence of colonisation – of taking land, imposing language, laws and systems to benefit Pākehā. Right now, in the face of movements and action for change to begin to address this injustice, we are seeing a major backlash as this government commits to actions that will strengthen colonisation and oppression. The extent of anti-Māori action outlined in the coalition agreements is profound and far-reaching – while there is a current focus on the Treaty Principles Bill, we must also be aware that the intent and the action to undermine Māori rights and Te Tiriti is in every area – te reo, health, workers’ rights, environment, justice, local government, education, and more. Small parties have had a significant influence on these policies, the majority of New Zealanders did not vote for this.

 

In the face of this attack, what we see from Māori is kotahitanga and aroha. Clear messages from Tūrangawaewae, from Ratana, and Waitangi that “no way are you dragging us back, we’re moving forward.” And there’s a clear message of the role of tangata Tiriti too – that we must do the work in our homes, communities, and organisations to honour Te Tiriti. As tangata Tiriti, we need to show up, not just on Waitangi Day, but every day. There are two key tasks for us – to support Māori led responses and to work with our own people to move hearts and minds and to shift our systems.  

 

The actions of the current government lay bare the issues with our majoritarian, adversarial democracy. With a system in which the government is not compelled to honour our founding constitutional documents – He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti. Now is the time to address this weakness. The Matike Mai report on constitutional transformation gives direction to us for this work. It speaks of a conciliatory and consensual democracy. As tangata Tiriti, we need to work to build this alongside advocating for tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake of iwi Māori.   

 

When tangata Tiriti learn about Te Tiriti and our history, we understand what a powerful unifying document it is. We need to keep learning and encourage other tangata Tiriti to do so, too. We need to understand the systems that we are part of and that capitalism and colonisation go hand in hand – and always have. We see that in the current government’s relentless focus on economic growth at the expense of te taiao and tangata whenua. We need to understand, too, the powerful influence of international lobby organisations, like Atlas Foundation, have on current politics here.    We need to remember and activate power in our communities. It’s heartening to see action in local government. We’re also experiencing in the range of organisations we work with in the private and community sectors, that people are showing a strengthened commitment in this environment. As Hone Harawira said to the Crown at Waitangi, “The horse has bolted – you’re not going to stop it.”

 

 

As we speak with other tangata Tiriti who may be in different places to us, we must speak from our vision and values. To share with others how Te Tiriti is central to our harmonious future. This hīkoi is a great opportunity to practice that in a friendly crowd. I encourage you to use the time as we walk to chat with strangers – to share why you’re here, why you care, and what your contribution might be in these times. As you do, remember the power of everyday actions beyond today. Do what you can wherever you are (there are some suggestions here), and we encourage you to sign up to Action Station for updates on specific actions.   

Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui. 

 

Images credit – Teirangi Klever.

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