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Clark's Waitangi Day Somersault Almost Complete

Helen Clark's Waitangi Day Somersault Almost Complete

Prime Minister Helen Clark's latest comments about Waitangi Day almost complete her somersault on the issue, according to United Future leader, Hon Peter Dunne.

In today's Dominion the Prime Minister is reported as follows:

"Prime Minister Helen Clark is advocating giving Waitangi Day a more national focus - making it a celebration for all New Zealanders, not just Maori...
'Many people do refer to it as our national day - I don't think it has quite that status at the moment and as long as the controversy is around it, it won't. But over time I hope we can move toward a more positive expression of nationhood on that day."
'What would be best would be if the day could move to being a positive celebration of where New Zealand has come from and what it can be in the future.'"

Mr Dunne says he welcomes the Prime Minister's about face on the issue and recalls that he used almost identical words on 24 May 2000 when moving the first reading of his Aotearoa New Zealand Day Bill in Parliament:

"We need to have a day that brings people together and emphasises the things that make us what we are, rather than concentrates on those things that divide us. I have to say that sadly, very sadly, for far too many New Zealanders Waitangi Day has lost its relevance. For some it has become just an excuse for another public holiday. For others it has become a chance to dredge up a lot of historical bitterness. For most it is a day in which we no longer have the pride we ought to have in our national day." (NZPD, Volume 584, p 2512)

"Helen Clark's Government voted down that Bill, claiming that I was really trying to undermine the Treaty of Waitangi and the position of Maori."

"Dover Samuels stated the Government's position unambiguously:

'Waitangi Day is a very sacred day to the Maori people ... (It) is embedded in the mind and spirit of the Maori people ... The desire and hope is that this spirit be also embedded in the Pakeha people ...'" (NZPD, Volume 584, p 2514)

"Willie Jackson was more explicit:

'Peter Dunne's plan ... is to replace biculturalism with multiculturalism - his plan is that we abandon the special relationship and status that Maori have as tangata whenua under the Treaty of Waitangi and we replace it with a lovely multicultural society where Maori have no special status and all groups have the same political identity.'" (NZPD, Volume 584, p 2518

"Helen Clark did nothing then to distance herself from those comments, yet they are a million miles from her wish today that Waitangi Day move to being a positive celebration of where New Zealand has come from and what it can be in the future.'"

"Her somersault is now almost complete - the Prime Minister's position is now much closer to what I have been saying for some time on this issue, and I welcome her U-turn."

"I look forward to her completing the somersault by announcing in due course that we are moving to a new national day to be known as New Zealand Day," Mr Dunne says.

Ends

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