The Prime Minister has made a commitment to always attend official Waitangi Day commemorations – as long as he has the job.
But Chris Hipkins is not ruling out shifting Waitangi commemorations to a new location each year.
The dawn of a new Waitangi Day was recognised with prayer, waiata, our anthem and political leaders sharing their hopes for the nation.
“Today, we reflect on what we have achieved together and what more we must do,” said Hipkins.
“Grant us prosperity, although at the current time, we’ll probably settle for affordability,” said ACT leader David Seymour.
One notable absence at the morning’s dawn service was National’s leadership. They sent National’s fourth-ranked MP Dr Shane Reti.
“I’d be speaking on behalf of the National Party. Chris will be celebrating Waitangi Day in Auckland and also doing state of emergency things that he’s been so busy with,” Dr Reti told Newshub.
Christopher Luxon decided instead to attend a boat club in Takapuna on Auckland’s North Shore.
“Politicians and leaders should be visible and should be articulating key messages to the nation on what is our most significant day,” said Waitangi National Trust chair Pita Tipene.
Dame Jenny Shipley brought the Crown back to Waitangi as Prime Minister – the dawn service was her concept.
“I’ve been here when both National and Labour leaders have not been here. I’ve been here when they have been here,” said Dame Jenny. “I don’t make a judgement. Chris made an important speech yesterday, both the Chrises.”
Also absent was the Prime Minister on the tongs. Hipkins opted to scoff on, rather than serve, the scrolls.
But he also made a pledge – he’ll always attend Waitangi.
“Certainly, if I can, yes,” he said.
Since proceedings have moved to Waitangi’s Te Whare Rūnanga the commemorations have become less controversial and more ceremonial.
As the day – and what it means to New Zealand – evolves, there are calls to take it on the road and commemorate Waitangi in a different place each year.
“This celebration going on tour, following the path that the actual Treaty took back in 1840,” said Seymour. “It wasn’t just signed here on one day, it was signed over several months and I think it would be nice and quite educational for everyone actually.”
Asked if he would ever consider that, Hipkins said: “I wouldn’t rule that out.”
“I think it is important to recognise that Waitangi events happen all up and down the country.”
Dr Reti said: “How we might, for example, bring those in the South Island more into the celebrations we have here. It can be a little bit North Island-centric. We have actually considered that, not the specific details as you have described it. It does sit within the Trust’s ambit, and we have considered that.”
Hipkins also attended another ceremony in Auckland at Hoani Waititi Marae on Monday too.
Most attending Waitangi that Newshub spoke to were keen to keep the main event – though the southerners in the crowd thought it’s high time it went south.
Tipene is open to sharing around – just not on the actual day.
“I don’t think the Government should go anywhere else on February 6 but I think attention should be brought to the many places where it was signed.”
Because the waiata, everyone being together, the brass bands, and the waka, feels at home at Waitangi – the birthplace of our nation.
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