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UK voices “step-change” in Maori relationships

Opape Marae, Opotiki.

[For immediate release]

28 May 2019

UK voices “step-change” in Maori relationships

The Union Jack was raised in Opotiki yesterday alongside the flag of the United Tribes in commemoration of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in the Eastern Bay of Plenty settlement 179 years ago. An address for the occasion from the British High Commissioner was read out, Her Excellency Laura Clarke signalling a “step-change in our relationships with Maori,” remarking: “A UK-New Zealand bilateral relationship requires purpose-driven, respectful and honest partnership with te iwi Māori.”

The signing took place 27 and 28 May 1840 with seven chiefs of the Whakatohea tribe putting their marks on the Maori language version. The annual commemoration was completed today when the Ngai Tamahaua Hapu – organisers of the events - raised the “Tino Rangatiratanga” flag at their marae at Opape.

“Hapu rangatira – Tauatoro, TuTakahiAo, Rangihaerepo, Whakiia, AkeAke, Rangimatanuku and Aporotanga – entered into a covenant between Nga Hapu and Queen Victoria as the sovereign of the British nation before God to recognise and protect their rights and interests of their Tino Rangatiratanga Mana Motuhake as independent sovereign people,” said Ngai Tamahaua Hapu spokesperson Tracy Hillier, “I am encouraged by the High Commissioner’s comments and her willingness to engage with Hapu.”

Ms Hillier recalled the significance for the Hapu: “Queen Victoria features inside our wharenui Muriwai. We remember our Kaumatua, Matenga Biddle, who for many years would gather us at Opape to remember Te Tiriti, and this day was significant as it was also his birthday. We have seen the passing of Pauline Biddle who kept this day special. Moe mai ra e te tuahine, Pauline. Kia au te moe. Kia tau hoki te rangimarie ki runga i tena me tena o matou me te whenua mana motuhake o te rohe o Ngai Tamahaua; hurinoa i te rohe o Mataatua whanui. Ko te ringa hiko o Muriwai Tapairu. Hoea hoea, hoea te waka o Mata Atua. Mauriora.”

“Te Tiriti was an agreement with mana and commitment to enable new peoples to come to this nation of ours,” said Ms Hillier, “however trust was broken when the colonial government instigated the invasion and military occupation of our territory in 1865, but we have survived their failed policy of suppression and now struggle with the challenge of settling the Crown violations.

“The time is now for the Treaty Negotiations Minister to recognise Hapu leadership and end his government’s present charade of recognising the ‘mandate’ of the Whakatohea Maori Trust Board-led pre-settlement trust,” said Ms Hillier.

The organisers wish to thank the Opotiki RSA for the use of their flagpoles and the Opotiki District Council for their relocation for this occasion.

Address from Her Excellency the British High Commissioner:

Tēnā koutou katoa

It is of great poignancy to recognise these significant days in the history of ngā uri o Ngai Tamahaua. On May 27 and 28 1840, hapū leaders of Te Whakatōhea signed the Tiriti o Waitangi here in Ōpōtiki. Today, as you gather as descendants and whānau whānui of these signatories to commemorate this historical event, it is incumbent on me to reflect upon our shared history.

Te Tīriti o Waitangi remains of critical importance to the relationship between Māori and the Crown, both historically and politically. It is important today in righting the wrongs of the past through the Waitangi Settlement process, and in looking to the future. There is much to be done to and much to be learned, and I believe that the future of a bicultural Aotearoa is a bright one.

As the British High Commissioner to New Zealand, I am committed to doing all I can to initiate a step-change in our relationships with Māori. A UK-New Zealand bilateral relationship requires purpose-driven, respectful and honest partnership with te iwi Māori, to ensure that our shared future is one of prosperity for all.

Today I commemorate with you, I honour you and your tūpuna, and I send my very best wishes, indeed.

Nōreira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

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