Whare Runanga Powhiri
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
6 February 2021
Ko ‘te amorangi ki mua’
Ko ‘te hāpai ō ki muri’
Tuatahi ki te Atua,
koia te tīmatanga,
koia ano te whakamutunga o ngā mea katoa.
Tātai whetū ki te rangi,
mau tonu, mau tonu
Tātai tangata ki te whenua,
ngaro noa, ngaro noa.
Ka hoki mai ki te mata ora
Tatou kua hui mai nei
Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou, Tēnā tātou katoa
This is the fourth occasion that I have had the privilege of a powhiri at Te Whare Runanga in the lead up to Waitangi Day.
I thank you most sincerely for the manaakitanga you have extended to David and me. Our visits to Waitangi have provided us with some very special memories.
Highlights for me include the 160th anniversary of the flagstaff erected by Northern Maori on Maiki Hill at Kororāreka, in 2018. I was privileged to be the first Governor General to visit and acknowledge this significant gesture of goodwill made in 1858 by those northern rangatira.
In 2019, I was delighted to be able to conduct the investiture of Sir Hek Busby right here, in the presence of hundreds of his whanau and supporters. The haka for Sir Hek was earth shaking!
The opening last year of Te Rau Aroha was a very moving occasion, as was the commemoration we attended yesterday at Te Ruapekapeka. What an astonishing site and remarkable story. It was a beautiful ceremony on a glorious Northland day.
Today, here on these grounds, in front of Te Whare Runanga, I feel the presence of Pita Paraone and my former Kaumatua Piri Sciascia, who guided me and shared some of my previous visits here.
I also acknowledge the very recent loss of Stephen Ihaka, who frequently supported us behind the scenes and smoothed the way for our powhiri.
If someone were to ask what Waitangi means to me, I could do no better than to quote from one of my predecessors, Lord Cobham, who described Waitangi as ‘hallowed ground’.
Hallowed for so many complex and powerful reasons.
The timbers of this wharenui, of James Busby’s house, and of the Museums are imprinted with korero that has helped shape the formation of our nation.
We walk in the footsteps of people who signed a sacred pact, 181 years ago, in good faith, with hopes for a new and better way of working together.
We acknowledge our continuing responsibility to honour that good faith and engage in a respectful and honourable Treaty dialogue.
We feel the lingering presence of people who helped rescue this beautiful place from a neglected corner of history, and transform it into what we see today.
We honour the memory of the principal architects of that vision, Governor General Lord Bledisloe and Sir Apirana Ngata.
We remember how, in 1940, a long line of young men of Te Tai Tokerau marched up from the bay below, in the lead up to their embarkation for battle in the Second World War. We imagine the mixed emotions felt by those soldiers and their loved ones who farewelled them.
We remember the many challenges, courageous conversations and demands for change that have been voiced here over the years.
Whenever I come to Waitangi, I reflect on my responsibility as one of the kaitiaki of the Treaty relationship, representing the Crown as your Treaty partner, the 36th person to hold this role, beginning with William Hobson in 1840.
And I reflect on my role as a contributor to the national conversation about what it means to us in the 21st century.
As I stand on the mahau of this whare runanga, which represents the iwi of Aotearoa, I reflect on the privilege I have had to be part of korero on marae the length and breadth of the country.
I have heard about challenges and opportunities, particularly in the post-Settlement environment.
I’ve heard about concerns and responses to the climate crisis and environmental degradation.
I’ve witnessed how the incorporation of tikanga is contributing to the growth of successful and sustainable enterprises throughout Aotearoa.
Above all, I’ve heard about your determination that we provide a better future for rangatahi, in education and training, in the acquisition of te Reo Māori and their role as kaitiaki of te ao Māori into the future.
And I know we all have more to do to live up to the hopes and expectations of our forbears who signed Te Tiriti 181 years ago.
Whenever I can, I take opportunities to urge all New Zealanders to visit Waitangi – to better understand what it means to belong to this land.
I am thrilled that all of our children will soon be learning the history of Aotearoa as part of the school curriculum.
When they visit Waitangi - knowing what they are coming to, and why – their experience will be so much more profound.
I look forward to the time when every citizen can participate in informed conversation about our Treaty relationship, and see it as a source of pride and possibilities.
In the words of Sir James Henare:
kua nui rawa te haere whakamua, e kore e taea te hoki whakamuri.
We have come too far not to go further.
When I leave Waitangi, I cannot claim that I will feel the sorrow of Lord Bledisloe, who lived out his days 19,000 kilometres away from a place that meant so very much to him.
Unlike him, I know I will be back in future years, perhaps enjoying a measure of anonymity as I re-visit the museums, survey the islands sparkling in the bay and recall the korero of days like this.
I wish the kaitiaki of these hallowed grounds all the very best as you navigate the next chapter of our nation’s history and I thank you for the generosity and friendship that you have extended to David and me during our visits.
Noreira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa