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Speech

Commemoration of the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi

Issue date: 
Friday, 6 February 1987
Speaker: 
The Hon and the Rt Rev Sir Paul Reeves, GCMG, GCVO, QSO

Kei ā tātou mamae me o tātou pouritanga.
Engari, e hihiri ana te wawata me te pono o te ngākau kia waihangatia he āhutanga kia tootika ta tātou noho ia ra, ia ra, hei whakahirahira i te iwi whānui.
No reira kia kotahi tātou i roto i o tātou whakāro me ā tātou mahi, ki te awhina i tēnā i tēnā o tātou.
Kā wehewehe tātou e kore tātou e kaha.
Kā huihui tātou, kua kaha tātou
No reira, kia whāwhātia ake tēnei whakataukī -

Wehewehe te kākaho, ka whati!
Whakapūpūtia te kaakaho, e kore e whati!

You can have laws and a government but that is no guarantee you have a nation.

Nations grow slowly. In every age they struggle with inequalities of wealth, the mal-distribution of power, the frustration of those who want to get on.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi has given us a framework for this nation, a framework in which two cultures struggle to grow and develop.

So, whether we like it or not, the Treaty belongs to the heritage of all New Zealanders. The non-Māori right to settle in this country stems from Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The arrival in 1855 of my ancestors, Edward and Mary Ann Reeves, was possible because my yipuna Matangi along with others signed the Treaty. He signed in Wellington on 29 April 1840.

My affiliations are with the tribes of Taranaki. From our history, we know only too well the Treaty did not prevent bad land dealings and war.

But Māori leaders have consistently taken their stand on what the Treaty promised. The honour of the Treaty must be maintained, they have insisted. Promises solemnly made must be solemnly kept.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi, therefore, is much more than the signatures of 546 Maoris and one non Māori on a document. It is a moral force edging us to the bar of accountability for promises made and using instruments like the Waitangi Tribunal to make that happen. Ultimately, it is the spirit of the Treaty that counts. Life is richer when we share with others. "Give and it will be given to you", says the Bible. Our own dignity lies in creating dignity for others.

The Treaty is a framework for a partnership in which Maoris must be able to develop their culture and institutions, just as non Maoris have done, and to use the resources of the nation for this purpose.

We don't always handle this process very well. Every now and then, we get confusion when people of one culture try to manage the affairs of people of another culture. If we get it right, often we get it right accidentally. We must learn from our experience.

So name your fears. Move beyond guilt and confusion to mature and responsible action. If losing control frightens you, acknowledge it. If the unfamiliar threatens, or the cost of reconciliation seems too much, acknowledge that.

Jesus said: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." For the Māori, treasure consist of mana tangata whenua, encompassing language, land, health, education, control over their own affairs. For the non-Māori, the list of treasures would be remarkably similar.

We don't have to be the same, but we should be able to understand each other. We must be led by our hopes and not held back by our fears.

Last updated: 
Friday, 6 February 1987

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