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Waitangi Day Needs Bigger Push

Press Release: Auckland - Wednesday 10 January 2000

Organisers of two Auckland Waitangi Day events say New Zealand needs to take more pride in themselves as a nation. Waiata Artists say New Zealanders overseas tend to make more fanfare about the day than their countrymen here and it's bizarre.

"I've just come back from working on the Olympics in Australia," says production manager Jaunnie Ilolahia, "and Waitangi Day for Kiwis there is a big celebration. Kiwis travel from miles around to make the occasions. I've worked on a few Waitangi Day events in Bondi and the patriotic feeling there was tremendous. Even in Tonga there are big Waitangi Day celebrations held by Kiwis at the NZ consulate. "

"Compare that to here though and it's pretty sad. Most people see Waitangi Day as another public holiday or connect it with Maori political controversy."

Ilolahia is helping to stage a church service at St Matthews-in-the-City and the annual One Love concert in Pt England on Waitangi Day.

Last year the events attracted the biggest numbers recorded at a Waitangi Day celebration in Auckland, but that's in spite of widespread apathy about the day says Ilolahia. She adds the government needs to encourage more people to participate in the day by giving out more funding to hold community events.

"The government has no trouble supporting sporting events like the America's Cup and Rugby World Cup but what about our national day?" asks Ilolahia. "For us, Waitangi Day is about bringing together everyone who calls themselves a Kiwi. Our events will have not just Maori, but Pakeha, Pacific Island, Asian and Indian people working behind the scenes as well as performing."

Ilolahia says Waiata Artists applied for $33,000.00 in funding from government to hold the events but were disappointed when they received only $10,000.00. This is the sixth year the group have staged the events and they say while they understand there's only $170,000.00 to hold Waitangi Day events nationally, that equates to about 5 cents per person.

"Each year we've received good reviews from government for holding these events but are expected to stage them on a shoestring budget for maximum effect. "

Ilolahia says the financial difficulties organising the Waitangi Day events are also compounded by the late timing of the funding release. Community groups will receive their funding on 26 January 2001 - only eleven days out from Waitangi Day.

"For us it's a nightmare because we have to book our venues, performers, staging etc and we more or less have to cross our fingers and hope we'll get what we asked for," says Ilolahia. "This shows the low priority government has placed on encouraging New Zealand communties to celebrate their national day. "

On a positive note, Waiata Artists have received good support from several areas. Greens MP, Nandor Tanczos, has agreed to be guest MC and host a speakers' corner at the One Love concert. Auckland City Councillor, Bill Christian, will also be attendng the day. A first-nation Candian artist will also be travelling from Canada to participate at the One Love concert.

For more information, contact Waiata Artists on (09) 629 0826 or waiata@pasifika.net.


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