We had the usual calls for Waitangi Day to be a day of national celebration (video), to be renamed, to be the day for announcing honours, to be a time to look forward, not look back, and oh my god, what will the neighbours think (video: quote at 2.20).
No. These calls are mistaken. As other people have said, we ought not to erase the past, we ought to keep on talking about make our lives together, an enforced cay of celebration would ensure that all meaning is lost.
There’s another reason why we should not try to force change on Waitangi Day. We have an on-going discussion about the Treaty in New Zealand, about dispossession and property rights, about the status of Māori, and about how best to work together towards resolution of some of the issues. But it’s one discussion among many. We also talk about education, and health, and employment and unemployment, and conservation, and conditions for business, and food supply, and… and… and… There are so many issues clamouring for attention, each justifiably taking up space in the national living room.
Waitangi Day is the one day each year when we can guarantee that Treaty issues, and the concerns of Māori will be front and centre. It’s the one day a year when we listen to Māori first. It’s the one day a year when Māori can be sure that they will get a word in. The rest of us should just shut up and listen already.
So add that to the list of reasons why we should not attempt to force change on Waitangi Day.
As for being an international laughing stock, I doubt that anyone elsewhere cares at all, and if they do bother to notice that instead of hauling out the marching bands and ra-ra-ra and hoopla, we choose instead to worry about how we organise our life together in this country, surely that’s a good thing! It’s great to have a party, but it’s also great to be able to talk, and keep on talking.
And it occurs to me that if we want a day that recognisably belongs to New Zealand, instead of being imported from the Northern hemisphere, then that day could be Matariki. Let’s do away with Queen’s Birthday, and have a Matariki celebration instead. Then we would have two sets of honours, one marking the summing up and beginning of the Western calendar year, and one marking the summing up and beginning of the traditional Māori year.