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Waitangi Day Commemorations

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 6 February 1991
The Hon Dame Catherine Tizard, GCMG, GCVO, DBE, QSO

"He kororia ki te Atua
He maungarongo ki runga i te mata o te whenua
He whakaaro pai ki nga tangata katoa."

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

I have chosen these well-known words of Te Whiti o Rongomai, the prophet chief of Parihaka, to think about now, because of their universal and timeless relevance.

Broadly, there message is a simple one: Praise to God, peace on earth and goodwill to all people.

We are fortunate to have peace in our land. Others are not so well off. We remember daily the New Zealanders serving now in the war zone of the Persian Gulf.

"Peace" is not an easy word. People talk of different kinds of peace. Peace is a word quite often qualified - a just peace, a negotiated peace, an imposed peace.

All have quite different connotations. This thought leads me to the concept Te Whiti spoke of. Goodwill. The price of true peace is goodwill toward all people.

We have come a long way to recognising that in our country, but we still have a long way to go. Her Majesty The Queen noted this in her address here, at Waitangi, last year. She said: "Today we are strong enough and honest enough to learn the lessons of the last 150 years and to admit that the Treaty has been imperfectly observed. I look upon it as a legacy of promise."

These are powerful thoughts when they come from that source. On Waitangi Day 1991 they bear thinking about anew so that we, as a nation, may reflect on the achievements, successes and disappointments of 1990.

1990 was a year that brought life in New Zealand into sharp focus for many people.

People of good sense have had to accept that our economic circumstances have changed permanently: the fact that too many people lack jobs, resources, opportunities, and sometimes hope, is not just a temporary hiccup in economic progress.

There remain basic inequalities of wealth, race and gender.

They are not beyond remedy. But to right them demands a great deal more personal and individual goodwill on everyone's part than we have hitherto shown.

I see no reason why we cannot give that goodwill.

Addressing these issues is a personal responsibility for each one of us. Let us enter into the great debates which are before us with optimism and zest and faith in each other. Let us not expect governments - or local authorities - or community organisations - or iwi - to carry the whole burden. They cannot do so. We should not expect them to do so.

We gather here at Waitangi to commemorate the Treaty; to think on all that has happened since 1840 - the good and the bad - to contemplate the progress we are making as a nation, and all that we still have to do.

It is a time to remember again that this is a beautiful and bountiful country, and with goodwill, our own skills and abilities should be sufficient to create a full life with opportunities for all.

I believe there is an ingredient called for in addition to Te Whiti's 'goodwill'. As a people we have not lacked this ingredient in the past. We must go forward with confidence in ourselves.

It is time that the faltering in our collective step, the misgivings, the pessimism and the hesitations be overcome.

There is nothing holding us back but our own, temporary loss of faith in ourselves. Let us set aside this aberration. Let us celebrate our diversity, harness our creativity, exploit our ingenuity, play to our strengths and give form and substance to the hopes and yearnings of our people.

There is no question that the Treaty's noble hopes and ideals have been imperfectly realised over the intervening years.

Those who would deny this are as mis-guided as the vandals who would destroy monuments whose inscriptions serve a useful purpose in reminding us that our own understanding of New Zealand's history will continue to change.

Denying our past for any reason is not the way to the future in New Zealand.

Time has not yet run out on us. This nation is still young and maturing. We still have an opportunity to do it better, to get it right.

The Queen also said of 'this legacy of promise': "It can be a guide to all New Zealanders of goodwill, to all whose collective sense of justice, fairness and tolerance will shape the future the obligation on Treaty partners is to show each other the utmost good faith."

A year ago at Waitangi, the Queen was presented with a prized greenstone mere. As Her Majesty's representative, I convey her greetings to you on this national day.

It is Her Majesty's wish, according to Mori custom, that the mere be returned to Aotearoa for safe-keeping.

On her command, I formally return it to the people of Tai Tokerau for display here in its home for all to see. This precious gesture of goodwill and respect sets a worthy precedent for others.

Ka whakahokia atu ki a koutou i tenei ra o Waitangi i runga hoki i tona tino aroha ki a koutou.

As Her Majesty said in this place: "Working together the people of New Zealand can make a country that is strong and united, and unique among the nations of the earth."

Kia kaha! Kia maia! Kia manawanui!

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

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