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PM Wont Go To Waitangi Marae She'll Go To Akaroa

20 January 2000
Prime Ministerial statement on Waitangi Day weekend

Prime Minister Helen Clark today announced her plans for the weekend of Waitangi Day.

Helen Clark said her programme would involve a wide range of events, each of which has significance in defining the nation New Zealand is becoming. These events span the arts, culture, and sport, and include participation in the Waitangi Day commemoration of Ngai Tahu.

“My desire is to see the days and events around Waitangi Day contribute to the building of a strong sense of New Zealand identity and purpose.

“Over the years many communities and organisations have chosen Waitangi Day as a time of celebration of both New Zealand’s indigenous culture and traditions and the cultures of the many others who make up today’s modern New Zealand society.

“Local government has played a significant part in bringing communities together around Waitangi Day.

“The year 2000 offers New Zealand the chance for a fresh start. In our country, as indeed world wide, communities celebrated the end of one millennium and the beginning of the next on an unprecedented scale.

“I know that the hopes of New Zealanders are high that as a nation we can achieve our dreams in the years ahead.

“A fresh start means putting the wrangles of the past behind us. For me, that rules out attendance at Waitangi this year.

“As Prime Minister I want to express my total commitment to honouring the Treaty of Waitangi, to resolving claims pursuant to it, and to working to close the gaps which have developed between Maori and other New Zealanders.

“I regret that it is not possible to advance those objectives at Waitangi at this time. Too many other agendas are running there – and have run there for years.

“I have attended events at Waitangi for the past six years. Each time there has been an underlying mood of tension and uneasiness. On three of those occasions that mood has degenerated into downright unpleasantness. My tears in 1998 were not for myself, but for the ruination, yet again, of an event which has so much potential for healing, reconciliation, and taking matters forward in a setting so historic and so beautiful.

“I wish to express my thanks to Ngapuhi elders who have on many occasions welcomed me to their marae and wished to do so this year. I hope in the coming months to visit the district to discuss issues of substance with Ngapuhi.

“This Waitangi Day I will participate in the formal commemoration by Ngai Tahu at Akaroa where its representatives signed the Treaty in 1840. In future years I envisage visiting other iwi for commemorations. No particular significance should be read into the selection of Ngai Tahu this year, other than that a warm and early invitation was tendered to me. This will be the first time that a New Zealand Prime Minister has attended Ngai Tahu’s Waitangi Day commemorations. I thank all others for their invitations for me to be with them on Waitangi Day.

“What I seek in the days surrounding Waitangi Day is a refocus on the richness and talents which contribute to contemporary New Zealand society and identity.

“On the evening of Friday 4 February, I will be opening a new exhibition at the Millennium Art Gallery in Blenheim. The exhibition, View of Marlborough, displays the work of talented artists in the region.

“On Saturday 5th February I will attend the Fifteenth Biennial Traditional Maori Performing Arts Festival at Turangawaewae. The kapa haka groups perform to a very high standard and deserve widespread recognition for that.

“Also on Saturday 5 February I will be attending and speaking at the opening of the Chinese New Year Festival in Auckland. In this millennium year the Auckland Chinese Community Centre has organised a special festival marking the Year of the Dragon. The Chinese community is a growing and very significant part of New Zealand society today.

“On the evening of Waitangi Day I shall be at the Ericsson Stadium in Auckland for the Warriors’ opening match against Melbourne in this year’s rugby league competition. Pride in sporting achievement is also an important part of our national identity.

“The Treaty of Waitangi was signed so that two peoples could co-exist in one nation. One hundred and sixty years later we can look back at both the progress and the mistakes we have made, and we can look forward to resolve to do better. We still have work to do in honouring the Treaty, but we also have much to celebrate as a nation.

“My desire is for this Waitangi Day weekend to be one which draws communities together rather than driving wedges between them. I believe New Zealanders have a yearning to move on, put things right, and accentuate the positive.

“It is in this spirit that I have decided where my energies as Prime Minister will go on this occasion,” Helen Clark said.

ENDS

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