It is often said in this country that we are all one people. The Treaty of Waitangi offers us a very different model. It speaks of two peoples within one nation and spells out the rights and obligations they have towards each other.
Over the space of all but 150 years the original people of the land are now outnumbered by those whom they welcomed and accommodated. Therefore the responsibility of the majority is not to abandon the rights and obligations set out in the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Treaty speaks of partnership between Māori and Pākehā in this country. It encourages two partners to work for the future of one nation, two partners who are to be full partners because they can feel the strength and dignity of their own identity.
We are not there yet. There are issues of justice, ownership and access to resources. Health education and the recognition of Māori language are pressing concerns. Unemployment affects us all. Sometimes it may seem confusing, even frightening. But as I see it, two peoples struggling to become true partners.
Some people may feel resentful at the number of Māori claims. To them I would say learn something of the history of this land between 1840 and 1870. To the Māori I would say learn something of the hopes of those people who from 1840 on were prepared to spend four months on a sailing ship to come here.
The issues before us are what I can only call issues of the spirit and in responding to them we will discover more about ourselves.
So there are three things I want to say. It is always the responsibility of the strong in society to be compassionate and the weak to be courageous.
Knowing when and how to let go of something in the face of another's fair claim is the strength found in brave people, it is not a weakness. And being human means being free to choose. It means knowing that some choices are good, others are bad and it is our job to know the difference. It is what we tell our children though we may not be too good at it ourselves.
I believe that until we deal with the matters coming before bodies such as the Waitangi Tribunal we won't be free to make our choices about ourselves and each other. We must get a load of suspicion and confusion off our backs. Then it will be easier for Māori and Pākehā to work for the health and hope of each other.
The value of what we do in 1990 depends on what we do in 1989. There are issues for which we need skills now and while they won't go away we may be able to tackle them better. There are also some achievements which as a nation we should mark.
I long for the time when the Treaty of Waitangi will not need to be an instrument for righting wrong but will be the means of regulating and measuring the good society.
Toi te kupu, toi te mana, toi te whenua. (Without the language, without the mana, without the land, dignity and life force have gone.) We can all share the spirit which that whakatauki is seeking to protect. Let's make it real for everyone.