What Waitangi Day means to you

The Treaty of Waitangi

In 2006, we asked people with an interest in Waitangi Day (and the Treaty of Waitangi) to comment on what it means to them. Here are their responses:

Waitangi Day is always special for me because I usually go up to Waitangi itself. It is a superb site. So many of our foundations of relationships were laid there - the 1834 flag chosen, the 1835 Declaration of Independence signed, and the 1840 Treaty first presented and signed by some 40 or more chiefs. Each year we recall those events and especially the coming together of two strong cultures to found a new nation. Neither side knew how it would work out and each had different aspirations and plans. We are still working on that relationship - like most relationships it needs caring for. That caring must come through a union of hearts and minds within our nation. Waitangi Day is the time to think on that and to celebrate the steps we are taking every day.

Claudia Orange PhD OBE
Director History and Pacific Cultures
Te Papa Tongarewa/Museum of New Zealand

The Rt Hon Norman Kirk, Richard K. Whitau (MOERAKI) and Mike Richards initiated and achieved a "national day" of recognition for this countries most important foundation document the "Treaty of Waitangi".

  • with the intent to provide the opportunity to raise community awareness and commemorate the occasion within the community
  • hence why we cannot afford to lose this day of national importance
  • for me this day means we hui with whanauka Kai Tahu in either Onuku, Otakou or Ruapuke in Te Wai Pounamu yearly
  • this also means a more informed society of this countries ethnic people, and to learn understand the uniqueness of manawhenua

Koa Whitau-Kean

I have come to see the Treaty of Waitangi as an essential guide to building a unified, prosperous and peaceful nation. I place my best efforts in working practically towards restoring right relationship with indigenous peoples. This work involves valuing my own cultural identity, understanding the colonial history of this country, raising the awareness of and working with Pakeha, and standing alongside Māori and other indigenous people in their struggle for justice. The Treaty partnership has the potential to develop a unique national identity in an increasingly complex world.

Robert Consedine
Waitangi Associates

Waitangi Day is significant for me as an annual reminder of how little we have been taught about our own short history. My first realisation of this was in the early 1990’s when I met my husband ‘to be’ Christopher. While watching a TV news item I made an ill informed comment about claims for Māori sovereignty and was quickly but politely instructed to read a book by Claudia Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, to improve my knowledge. Much to my surprise he announced that he was a Ngai Tahu descendant.

Not long after that whilst working for Telecom head office I was invited to attended a residential seminar for what is now generally known as a Treaty Workshop. At the time partners/spouses were encouraged to attend, so Christopher and I went off together to Okatina Lodge, near Rotorua, for a 3 day residential Treaty workshop where we learnt about NZ history, and tikanga Māori. In between workshops we wrote and performed waiata to reinforce our learning. Not only did I gain a new and compelling Māori perspective on our history, but I experienced first hand the lasting impact that the events of the past and present have had on individuals and families.

Having now completed several Treaty workshops I take every opportunity to support greater awareness of bicultural issues, and encourage others to become informed about New Zealands past. As a mother of three, I feel an obligation to ensure my children are well informed about their history and culture so that they will feel proud of both their Pakeha and Māori heritage.

Philippa Jones
General Manager Human Resources
Christchurch City Council

It is a time to think about our tipuna Piuraki who signed the Treaty at Onuku, near Akaroa. I wonder what was going through his mind at the time? Did he believe it was going to help our people, or did he sign as he felt there was no real choice? It’s a time to reflect on my own mixed heritage and what that means to me, and for my children in the future. It is a time to think about our nationhood, and how we can make this place an awesome place to live, for everybody, not just for those born into privilege.

Ariana Tikao
(Horomaka Productions, www.arianatikao.com)

It’s pretty simple really, well for me anyway, Waitangi day is a time to reflect learn and prepare as well as celebrate the unique contribution of Tangata Whenua (Māori) to our national identity. It instils a sense of pride & belonging to our beautiful country that we share with a diverse range of people.

The Treaty of Waitangi is the focus for my job as the Māori Services coordinator here at Christchurch City Libraries/Ngā Kete Wānanga o Ōtautahi. It is in the tukutuku panels that adorn the Ngā Pounamu Māori Centre, it is in the singing of waiata by Ngā Manu Tioriori (the Christchurch City Council waiata group). It is in all the hanging bilingual signage around our network of Libraries, it’s in the programmes and events we hold during Te Wiki o te reo Māori/Māori Language week, it is in the ‘Kia ora’ greeting you might hear when you ring up the Library and it is in Te Ara Hou the Libraries' Bicultural Plan.

It reminds me of the proud legacy passed down by my tipuna to me, my children and mokopuna, how even though some of them now live overseas they are still very proud to be Kiwis sharing the birthright of both Māori and Pākehā heritage.

Haneta Pierce
Kaiwahakahaere Ratonga Māori / Manager, Māori Services
Christchurch City Libraries

Kia ora koutou
I usually take off to wherever Ngai Tahu commemorates Waitangi Day i.e.
Onuku, Otakou or Bluff. For me it is the opportunity to share time with Whānaunga of my Iwi. I would love to head for Waitangi Bay of Islands one day but more importantly I prefer to be with my own Iwi.

Please note, I'm saying commemorate rather than celebrate. To my mind we have nothing to celebrate due to this society’s continual gross lack of support to all issues of Tangata Whenua of this country i.e. health, education, justice, welfare and everything else.

Racism is rife in this country still and especially here in Christchurch meaning we still have to fight our way for our survival. Be a Māori provider as we are and you will see it all. But they can't take our Mana away from us though.

Wherever I shall be I intend to have my Happy Waitangi Day renewing my right and Mana as Mana Whenua in my Rohe!


Aroha H Reriti-Crofts CBE JP
General Manager
Te Puawaitanga ki Otautahi Trust
Otautahi Māori Women’s Welfare League

Waitangi Day to me is a holiday along with Queen’s Birthday, & Labour Day. I comes when the weather is warm & settled so I like to get away from home to celebrate.

Kathy Palmer
Learning Area Selector, Māori
Christchurch Service Centre
National Library of New Zealand
Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa

What Waitangi Day means to me

I view Waitangi Day very much as New Zealand’s National Day and as such I see it as a day that should be commemorated. If your form of commemoration involves protesting at past or even current grievances, then more power to you. If it involves spending the day with your family enjoying one of this country’s many fine beaches, then I wish you fair weather.

For myself I see Waitangi Day as having aspects of both. As a New Zealander with both Māori and Pakeha ancestry Waitangi Day for me means taking pause and thinking about the historic partnership that was entered into in 1840, one that allowed my European ancestors to settle here. It also means thinking about all the great things that Māori culture has to offer to myself personally and to Kiwis in general. The ideals held within the Treaty document are of partnership and establishing a relationship. A relationship that is still ongoing (rough patches notwithstanding).

For me, Waitangi Day represents all of these things, and if it involves some hangi, sunshine, and a frosty beverage too then all the better.

Moata Tamaira
Kopuka Kaituara / Māori Services Librarian

I think Waitangi Day is moving up the scale of importance for New Zealanders. It used to be the day when at night, after we had had a day off work, we watched people abusing each other at the Marae at Waitangi. I think we all tired of that and one by one started to ask ourselves "just what does it mean to me?" I think we went through the same process with Anzac day. Indifference; a day off; a sideways glance as we watched our parents who had gone to war get tired and die and their grandchildren say why aren't we doing something on Anzac day; involvement, and then passion, towards a day of national significance.

The same will happen for Waitangi Day. I'm not sure whether it should be called New Zealand day or not. I'm open to that idea. It’s important for a country to celebrate its genesis. Where it started. To stop and reflect. To celebrate what and who we are.

This year I will be starting at Okains Bay Museum and then moving on to Onuku Marae, at Akaroa. I'm finding it marvellous having Ngai Tahu Marae within the city boundaries. I feel more engaged. I'm not sure why; but I am.

Garry Moore
Christchurch City Council

What Waitangi Day means to me!
Waitangi Day means learning to me. Firstly, because during my upbringing in Dunedin in the 1950’s Waitangi Day never existed.

Secondly, it means learning and affirming that I have a right to be here in New Zealand because my ancestors from Great Britain entered a contract/treaty to enable that. That means there was something here worth valuing, wanting and keeping.

Thirdly, it means learning and re-learning about what is of value in things Maori and of value in things British. Or, in other words, it means learning that diversity can be a good thing - or that one plus one equals three - you, me and you and me together.

Next, it means understanding but not accepting the fear that underlies ignorance about the Treaty and seeking to promote learning about it.

Lastly, Waitangi Day reminds me that learning involves us all and that it is lifelong.

Mike Flavell
Treaty Matters Ltd

Other opinions on Waitangi Day

Dame Silvia Cartwright: We need to talk through problems New Zealand Herald, 6 February 2006
Governor-General’s Waitangi Day address 2006
Group Says Waitangi Day should be New Zealand Day Word of Mouth Media/Scoop, 4 February 2004
The Good Bastards group believe Waitangi Day should be New Zealand Day
Sharples: Reflections on Waitangi Day The Maori Party/Scoop, 7 February 2006
Dr Pita Sharples; Co-leader, Maori Party