National leader Christopher Luxon has defended not being at Waitangi on Waitangi Day after opting for an Auckland event on Monday.
He’s also slightly changed his language around the founding and progress of New Zealand after being criticised for calling it a “little experiment”. He’s now saying it was a “brave experiment”.
The National Party leader attended the parliamentary pōwhiri at Waitangi’s Te Whare Rūnanga on Sunday before heading back to Auckland. Fourth-ranked MP Dr Shane Reti went to the Monday morning service in his place.
Luxon instead spent some of Waitangi Day at the Takapuna Boat Club.
“Waitangi day hāngī went down a treat at Ngati Whatua’s community celebrations at Takapuna,” Luxon said on Instagram.
Asked on Tuesday why he wasn’t at Waitangi on Waitangi Day, Luxon said he has been to the “very special occasion” in the past, but he is a “big fan of also doing Waitangi events in the community”.
“I was at a community event in Auckland. I think there is a lot of opportunity for us to do more community celebration of Waitangi across the country,” Luxon said.
“In history, sometimes [Leaders of the Opposition] have and sometimes they haven’t been there. I had been there the day before and had come in the night before that, and met with people and talked to a lot of folk.”
He said he encouraged everyone in New Zealand to go to Waitangi for a Waitangi Day commemoration, but the significance should also be celebrated in the community.
Luxon said he would probably be at the dawn service on Waitangi Day next year.
“I did it two years ago and loved it. It was great.”
Luxon was also asked about his description of the founding and development of New Zealand as a “little experiment” in his speech during the Sunday parliamentary pōwhiri. He encouraged people to read the full speech.
“If that was the most contentious thing out of Waitangi, it has been a very benign and calm Waitangi, I’d put it to you. What I was saying very clearly is it has been a brave experiment, New Zealand, as a nation.
“When you think about the approach the British took, when you think about the bravery it took for Maori to take to come together in that place 183 years ago and to form, as the founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi.
“Yes, we have had ups and downs, and setbacks and disappointments along that journey, it’s something we should be incredibly proud about. “
Unlike other countries, we have realised the promise and potential of New Zealand, Luxon said, but there is more to do.
“It was a brave experiment from everyone involved setting off. It had never been done before like that ever.
“When we have had to confront the Crown not upholding its ends of its obligations and the treaty commitments it made, the fact we have been on such a big reconciliation project through things like the treaty settlements, again no other country on planet Earth has thought about trying to do it in that way and try and right wrongs in that way.”
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Sunday said he would describe the founding of New Zealand as a “bold and visionary decision”.
“It was a decision to try, in effect, living together without conquest. In reality, if you look at the history that’s followed since then, there was too much conquest or too much conflict. But the objectives, the vision, the goals were very noble ones.”