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Dunne on Waitangi Day

Media statement
For immediate release

Wednesday, 4 February 2004

Dunne on Waitangi Day

United Future leader Peter Dunne today re-issued his consistent call for New Zealand to celebrate its nationhood in an inclusive, rather than divisive, way.

“For too long, Waitangi Day has been a symbol of what divides us as New Zealanders, rather than what brings us together.

“That is why I have been calling for some years now for a return to the notion of New Zealand Day and a rekindling of the great vision of Norman Kirk espoused at Waitangi in 1973 as the basis on which our country should be moving forward.

“Kirk said then “Waitangi Day is not just a day for the people of Northland, nor for Maori, but it is a day for all New Zealanders to celebrate the unique gift we all possess by virtue of being New Zealanders.” ”

Mr Dunne said “The Kirk vision which has become so sadly mislaid over the last 30 years was of bringing together the various strands and cultures that make up contemporary New Zealand into one vibrant national thread. It was not about the supremacy of one over the other, but nor was it about suppression of cultural diversity either.

“Over the intervening period, Waitangi Day has long since ceased to have that inspirational focus. For a while in the late 1970s and early 1980s it was a time for protestors to declaim that the “Treaty is a Fraud.” Now, those same voices are likely to be chanting, “Honour the Treaty.”

“In all of the to-ing and fro-ing about who is going to Waitangi and who is not we have long lost the point about celebrating the unique gift we all possess as New Zealanders.

“This year’s Waitangi Day promises to be no different, the foreshore and seabed debate and Dr Brash’s Orewa comments notwithstanding. The focus will be still on division, rather than national unity.

“The failure of political leadership on this issue has been a failure to focus on bringing our peoples together the way Norman Kirk envisaged. Positive discrimination policies to resolve perceived Maori disadvantage have been controversial and divisive.

“In the same way, their abrupt termination will prove equally divisive. Neither is a way forward of hope or substance. Nationhood cannot be built on the basis of winners and losers. History is redolent with examples of the failure of such approaches, and we should not assume New Zealand would be somehow any different.

“Indeed, while we carry on the way we are, we simply ensure that for most New Zealanders our national day is just another public holiday on which to go to the beach.”

Mr Dunne said “It is time to rekindle the sense of national vision Norman Kirk was talking of all those years ago. It is time to reassert the view that New Zealand can become a proud and vibrant nation, based around the contribution of all the cultures and peoples that inhabit these islands.

“It is time become comfortable with and actively promote the uniqueness of being a New Zealander today, of being a person who is a genuine mix of Europe, the Pacific and Asia, and unashamed of that diversity. It is time to commit to building a society that includes, rather excludes, all who bear the name New Zealanders.

“While we continue our current focus on winners and losers, Waitangi Day will remain a day of division, and New Zealand’s quest for a national identity will remain unresolved.”

ends

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