Thursday, February 7, 2013
Mike Butler: Waitangi up close and personal
The melodramas of Waitangi Day 2013 are fading fast, thankfully, but since I was there to witness this year’s storm in a Tiriti-cup, I can offer some observations. For instance, why should a prime minister, any prime minister, feel obligated to spend 1hr40mins to travel 861km to Waitangi, perhaps stay overnight, and spend another 1hr40mins traveling 1km from the Copthorne or the Kingsgate to face all manner of insults from the ragtag bunch of revellers at the rickety Te Tiriti o Waitangi marae?
If the current prime minister believes he is fronting up to “Maoridom”, the term windbag so-called Maori so-called leaders pompously pronounce, then he is clearly mistaken. Te Tiriti o Waitangi marae no more represents Maoridom than the Havelock North Bowling Club represents “Pakeha-dom”.
The Waitangi marae is that of the primary sub-tribe Ngati Rahiri, which belongs to Nga Puhi, the most populous tribe in New Zealand with 123,000 people. The Nga Puhi of the early 19th century were the first to use guns against other tribes, and became the pre-eminent mass murderers of that time, killing thousands upon thousands of non-Nga Puhi.
Those were the days of perpetual warfare, cannibalism, and slavery. Nga Puhi chiefs also signed the treaty, ceded their sovereignty, and sold their land.
Some of the people at Waitangi marae this week could trace their ancestry to the 19th century chiefs who did all that stuff, but many would also descend from other tribes, some would have great-grandparents who were slaves, and the appearance of names like Hadfield and Rankin indicate extensive ngati pakeha ancestry as well.
Therefore, the elected prime minister, who supposedly represents everyone in New Zealand, including the people gathered at the Waitangi marae, is visiting the motley Nga Puhi and ngati-everything-else crew at that marae under the illusion that they represent Maori. If the prime minister is under the illusion he is fronting up to a “treaty partner”, he is clearly mistaken.
Next, the Harawira hijinks.
What country in the world would let an obstinate, 81-year-old woman superannuitant make the prime minister of the government that pays for her every need wait for 40 minutes? The silence from any Waitangi marae chief or governing body proves that the marae is either dysfunctional or complicit.
A faintly rational explanation is that it could be aimed at catching votes for the dimwits who support her son’s Mana Party. More likely, the stunt was simply about intimidation, manipulation, and control – the defining characteristics of treaty politics.
Why did Prime Minister John Key not say: “we are here, we can come in now, if access is denied we are gone.” By failing to do that, Key is perhaps single-handedly destroying the dignity that should accompany the prime minister, so that any subsequent person in that role who fawns less will be accused of delivering a rebuff.
The news media can take a bit of bollocking on this point. They seized upon “grannygate” as the point of difference in this otherwise quiet and boring Waitangi Day build-up. That created the environment for the mad cow mayhem.
News editors could argue that it was news and therefore needed to be reported. But the news media, for whatever reason, is selective. During the entire wait outside the Waitangi marae, while the Harawira matriarch was plying her trade, Treatygate protester John Ansell was chatting with reporters who knew who he was and what he represented.
When Key finally arrived, Ansell held up a Treatygate banner and shouted out “When are you going to treat New Zealand as a democracy, John?” Cameras were rolling, and microphones were on. Patrick Gower from TV3 was one metre away and had seen Ansell behind him. There was complete silence. Whether the banner was visible to many was questionable, but Ansell’s shouted question was all that was to be heard. The only reporter to cover any of this was from Fairfax. Every other reporter ignored it.
One would have thought that the first non-Maori protest against treaty politics at Waitangi in the presence of the prime minister would have been newsworthy.
The annual February 5 fawning and protest is an opportunity for everyone who wants to further their ambitions to make a pitch. Key was there to be popular, Labour leader David Shearer was there to become visible, John Tamihere was there to get back in as a Labour MP, Willie Jackson was there helping his mate “JT”, Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples was there to keep his hold on leadership, and challenger Te Ureroa Flavell was there to build support to grab the leadership, and on it goes.
Amid the neo-neolithic primitive cool of tattooed wannabe “Once Were Warriors” types swaggering along the seafront, one reporter said: “I need to go to the bathroom”. “Portaloos are over there,” he was told. “I’m not talking about that”, he said. “I’m talking about the day.”
at 11:42 AM