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No. 67 (July 1969)
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Waitangi, 1969

Waitangi Day, 1969, proved disappointing for many people, because with the wettest ‘6th of February’ for 25 years, the celebrations were held inside the meeting house, where there was room for only the official guests, speakers, entertainers, reporters and television crew — and very few visitors. It was particularly disappointing that so few could enjoy the occasion, as many New Zealanders had planned to attend after their interest had been aroused by the excellent television coverage in 1968.

Speakers this year included His Excellency the Governor-General, Sir Arthur Porritt, the Hon. D. McIntyre, Minister of Lands, the Hon. A. E. Kinsella, Minister of Education, the Hon. J. R. Hanan, Minister of Maori and Island Affairs, and Mr N. P. K. Puriri, speaking on behalf of the Maori people.

Mr Hanan said, ‘Today we celebrate the 129th Anniversary of the foundation of our nation and the union of two peoples in a common citizenship. Since that time we have passed through many of the troubles and stresses that seem to beset most young nations, but we have been much more fortunate than most. We have now lived together in peace for one hundred years. This is something of which we may be proud.

‘The Treaty of Waitangi is the most discussed document in our history. Apart from its specific terms, what did the treaty do? I think Sir Apirana Ngata was right when he once said that one of the greatest effects of the treaty was that it unified the Maori people for the first time in history.

‘Up till that time each chief held in his hand one small portion of the mana of the Maori people. As he signed the treaty each chief delivered into a common pool his own small handful of mana — or sovereignty if you like — and thus made a nation.

‘At the same time other people came here from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and elsewhere. It is true that some of the new-comers had a tendency to take out more than they put in, but these were the exceptions, and every nation has its share of those. Let us not forget the tremendous contribution made by the ordinary hard-working citizens who made up the bulk of the immigrants of those days.

‘We have become a nation with much to be proud of, but can we be satisfied with the stage we have reached? We would be very foolish if we were. We cannot truly say we are one people while there are still economic and social differences between Maori and Pakeha. We have a common citizenship, we are equal before the law, but while we have differences in educational attainment, in health, in housing, and in occupational stratification, we cannot be truly one people.

‘Since I became Minister of Maori Affairs this has been my preoccupation — to remove as quickly as possible the things that still divide us. Great progress has been made and is being made.

‘The basic thing is education, and here an ever-increasing effort is being made, not only by the Government but also by Maori parents and Maori students. There is no magic wand which can transform the situation overnight. We need an unremitting campaign by the Government, the Maori people, the Maori Education Foundation and the community at large.

‘As a result of the great drive over the past twenty years, the disparity between Maori and Pakeha standards of housing and household amenities has almost disappeared. Here again this is due not only to Government assistance, but also to the magnificent effort of the people themselves. The old stereotype that a Maori house was an unpainted shack with a rusty roof and standing in a bare paddock is no longer true.

‘The other field which still requires the attention of every New Zealander is Maori

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employment. If Waitangi is to mean anything, we cannot complacently accept a situation where the majority of Maori people are unskilled workers, vulnerable to every economic breeze.

‘Every year we are expanding the Maori Apprenticeship Training Scheme, not only in numbers but also in scope. Already more than 1,000 boys have passed through the scheme and the numbers of new apprentices are rising steadily every year. This year also sees the beginning of a new nurse training scheme for girls. An indirect and encouraging result of the apprenticeship scheme is the increasing number of Maoris undertaking apprenticeships in the ordinary way with private employers.

‘This, to my mind, is the most important work, next to basic education, which has to be done to ensure that the spirit of Waitangi is fulfilled. When we have a solid body of skilled Maoris, other things will follow. It is the sons and daughters of skilled men who go to universities and obtain higher qualifications. It is the skilled men, Maori and Pakeha, who will work side by side and grow to respect each other.’

We print the full text of Mr Puriri's speech …

‘We are assembled here on an historic site, on an historic day, to turn over yet another page in the annals of our history. We join together to celebrate the 129th anniversary of the birth of our nation. Surely no hour is more propitious than this, where we can look back over these years and acknowledge the wisdom of those who were responsible for the treaty, and to the people of both races who kept our nation on an even keel through troublous times.

‘The thought that comes to my mind this evening … though negative … is this. “Is there anything in the Treaty today that I can celebrate with you?” The answer is … “Very little”, for my people have seen their lands and their fishing rights dwindle before their eyes, their mana, their language and their authority eroded.

‘The little that remains of the treaty is “Clause One”, where our leaders ceded their authority to the ancient crown of Great Britain. If this clause alone constituted the treaty, than I would truthfully say, “Let us celebrate the occasion together.”

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‘If we were to turn the clock back to 1840, knowing full well the injustices that would occur in the future, Your Excellencies, distinguished visitors, ladies and gentlemen. I would have no hesitation in placing my mark to that compact, for I know of no other native race in this world that has been so well treated by another race. I doubt very much whether there would be a free Maori people today had the spirit of the treaty not been perpetuated.

‘Having said that, I acknowledge that there have been many mistakes in the past. These cannot be obliterated, for they are part and parcel of the history of this country. But, when we consider the total picture, the good things that have happened far exceed the bad.

‘Tonight we are witnesses to a ceremony belonging to this country, representing both our cultures and the culture that is the fusion of the two — ours. Is Waitangi to be the preserve of only the British and the Maori, something special for you and me? My answer to this is “No”! Waitangi is far greater than this. It belongs to all citizens of this country, whatever their race may be. Whether they have come from Europe, Asia or Polynesia, let us extend the hand of friendship so that they can be one with us, and not apart. Some people may regard this as being rather idealistic, but surely we can “give it a go”; surely we will succeed. Is not this the message of Waitangi — its spirit?

‘The observance of Waitangi Day, the day we are honouring now, can no longer be regarded as a regional matter. Are we mature? Have we grown up? Can we think nationally? If the answer is “Yes”, do we have to wait another 129 years before we recognise Waitangi Day as belonging to all of us and not just to the Northland people, the Maoris, a few sentimental or well-meaning Pakehas in various places throughout this country, and a few expatriates who will be celebrating this occasion as New Zealand's Day? We cannot afford to wait even one more year.

‘The phrase used by Captain Hobson — “We are one people”, is a fact. Did we not answer the “call to arms” together? Are we not doing it now at this very moment? Are we not all concerned with the fate of our country? Do we not have compassion for one another? Have we not a lot of things in common? This is sufficient to show that we are one people. Where we differ is in the beliefs engendered by our different environments. Some people subscribe to the view that until such time as we, the Maori, do things exactly like you, and become brown-skinned Europeans — only then can we be “one people”.

‘Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, God forbid that anyone should make you or me into something that we are not or have no wish to be. Each of us has his own life to live. This is our right. We all come from differing backgrounds. That “diversity is the very essence of unity” is paradoxical but true.

‘I have faith in our country. I have faith in my people. Have we faith in each other? I have nothing but optimism for the years that lie ahead. My people in the last 129 years — and especially in the last 40 years — have made spectacular progress, due to the wisdom of our leaders and to the en-lightened policies of successive governments. At this moment we are living in a world of uncertainty torn by racial strife and conflicting ideologies. We are in the “space age”, an age of reaching out into unknown territories, an age of discovery. Let us resolve to reach out, to share with each other, to learn from one another, to listen to each other, here in New Zealand … now.

‘On behalf of the Maori people, I would like to acknowledge the debt we as a nation owe to the late Lord Bledisloe and his wife, for their gift, which ensured for all time the retention in the hands of the people of this “cradle of our nation”.

‘We are a comparatively new nation in the world, and yet other nations look to us as an example. May we cherish what we have and foster it. May we learn to know each other and to know what we may be. What have we to fear from “change” when “change” has so far been the very law of our growth? Who can dare set a limit to our horizons, when we do not? In freedom and diversity, with hopes as various as the homes that gave us birth, we still hold up to mankind a heartening promise — those who are far apart may work together; those who are not the same may yet be one; those who have different goals may live at peace.’