The good people of Kimbolton, a small town in the Manawatu, found themselves in hot water when they dared to organize an event they called Settlers Day on February 6th, Waitangi Day. It was to be a day of laughter, friendly rivalry between local communities and a chance to have a go at some old time activities for young and old. Everyone was welcome to this free event, no matter their age, agility, or their ancestry.
Stuff reporter George Heagney signaled his and Stuff’s indignation at the organisers having the audacity to do such a thing by describing them as a group, that had ‘organized to hold a Settlers Day celebration, to celebrate its European heritage, without any involvement of mana whenua Ngati Kauwhata’.
How dare they?
Kimbolton has had many Settlers Days in the past that have not been controversial but the difference this time it seems was they were holding it on Waitangi Day, and according to Stuff and some Maori people quoted in Stuff’s story, that is inappropriate.
Because Stuff had taken it upon themselves to turn a fun family day into a racial conflict, the organisers agreed to change the date because they felt it would be unsafe to go ahead on Waitangi Day. They did not say whether the safety concerns and threat of disruption came from the local Maori people who were so incensed that such a thing would occur on Waitangi Day or whether it was from those in the community who were annoyed at having their family community day on Waitangi Day ruined.
According to the iwi the organisers acknowledged they got it wrong and realized they should not have held it on Waitangi Day. Further they acknowledged they should not have contemplated such a thing without the all-important iwi engagement. The organisers have invited the iwi to be part of the rescheduled event and have reaffirmed their commitment for both communities to work together for the common good. It seems in Kimbolton they are not one community but two. The Maori people are one community, and the rest of the people are the other. How tragic is that?
The iwi is pleased to be part of the rescheduled event and were keen to ‘find a pathway to enable them and the organisers to work together and give meaningful expression to that notion of partnership’. It seems anyone organizing a community event these days must remember they have Maori partners.
The organisers, after being ‘educated’ by the iwi, might have come to the conclusion that holding a settlers day on Waitangi day is bad, but the more I think about it the more I think what a good idea it was. In fact, I can think of no better way to celebrate Waitangi Day. The one and only point of the Treaty of Waitangi was to enable the settlement of New Zealand. The Treaty enabled the European settlement of New Zealand. This European settlement brought the skills and the capital to take unused land and turn it in to productive farmland and to extract the resources from it to enable an undeveloped country to become a first world country with all the trappings of that in less than a century.
If there could have been another pathway in 1840 for the Maori people of New Zealand to become as prosperous as their descendants are now that did not involve colonization or conquest I have not heard of it, and if there was such a pathway, why is it that none of the third world countries in the world follow it now?
The settlers came to this country and endured incredible hardship to, by their labour and their skill and their capital, make us one of the most prosperous nations in the world. Surely that is what we should be celebrating on Waitangi Day?
Celebrating our European heritage on Waitangi Day will be more inclusive than what we have now because it is something we can all be proud to celebrate. The Maori people in New Zealand at the time the Treaty was signed benefited immensely from the settlement it enabled, and while the Maori people that existed at the time are all gone, their descendants, who are also descendants of the settlers, have as much reason to celebrate New Zealand’s European heritage as anyone.
Waitangi Day needs to be refocused to become a day when we celebrate the reason the Treaty was drawn up in the first place; to enable the settlement of New Zealand. It should be a day when we celebrate what those settlers to New Zealand did for us all and how it enables us all to now live in a first world country where even the poorest among us whether Maori, European or any other ethnicity, live a lifestyle that is the envy of most of the world’s population. Settlers Day February 6th 2024, why not?
Robin Grieve, a tutor, orchardist and retired farmer, is Chairman of Pastural Farming Climate Research HERE.