Treaty Times Thirty
Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.
Nau mai, haere mai ra ki Te Whare Kawana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Wellington.
This mihi in both Māori and English is a reminder that words not only carry complex meanings and associations – but also reflect cultural assumptions, values and ways of looking at the world.
As they say, much can be lost in translation.
So there is much to admire about the skills of translators and interpreters as they face the challenge of deciding which particular synonym might best carry the spirit, tone and meaning of a word or phrase.
Such accuracy and discernment is important. In our globalised world, we can’t afford to be talking past each other.
Today, I am pleased to welcome experts in the field to mark the 30th anniversary of your Society of Translators and Interpreters.
And I am especially pleased that you chose Te Tiriti o Waitangi as your translation project to mark this milestone.
It is a fitting acknowledgement of the mana of a founding document of our nation.
177 years ago, Captain William Hobson – soon to be Lieutenant-Governor Hobson – was confronted with the challenge of drafting a treaty between the British Crown and the iwi of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
It was a huge responsibility, and he drew on the local knowledge of the British Resident at Waitangi, James Busby, and several missionaries stationed there.
Once the English text had been drafted, Hobson was then faced with the need to translate the document into Māori.
As our foremost scholar of Te Tiriti, Dame Claudia Orange observed, Henry Williams’ Māori text “failed to convey the full meaning of the national sovereignty being conceded”.
The repercussions of this mis-translation can be felt to this day.
I have a particular interest in the Treaty Times Thirty project – both because I am a successor of William Hobson and appreciate the historical relationship he forged with Māori – and also, because of my time as a Crown negotiator in Treaty Negotiations with Bay of Plenty iwi.
That experience confirmed for me that the Treaty endures as an essential part of our constitutional framework, as a basis for negotiations between Treaty partners, and as a touchstone for our continuing relations. It is one of our nation’s most precious taonga.
The Treaty partners in 1840 were Māori and British. In the years since, as British immigrants have been joined by peoples from every quarter of the globe, the Treaty partnership has expanded.
To my mind, it is important for our diverse communities to have an opportunity to learn how our nation was created and what being a Treaty partner means today. Hopefully, the younger members of those communities will learn about the Treaty at school.
But what of the older members of those communities, particularly those who do not learn to speak or read much English?
This Waitangi Day, I spoke about the origins of the Treaty and gave my guests at the Bledisloe Reception a copy of the Māori and English texts, plus a translation of the Māori text.
Ideally, new migrants to this country would be able to access the Treaty in their own language.
With that thought in mind, I will direct people to your website when I next host a citizenship ceremony at Government House – and I am sure that it will be also of great interest to our Diplomatic Community.
Congratulations to everyone involved in this project, and thank you again for your commitment and dedication in producing this gift to Aotearoa New Zealand.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.