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Waitangi Day Commemorations

Issue date: 
Monday, 6 February 1978
The Rt Hon Sir Keith Jacka Holyoake, KG, GCMG, CH, QSO

I have been privileged to take part at these celebrations on other occasions over the years - as Prime Minister and as Leader of the Opposition - and now I speak to you today as your Governor-General and as Chairman of the Waitangi National Trust Board.

Thanks to Sir James Henare for his over-generous references to me; and for his good wishes to my wife and me in our service to the Queen and people of New Zealand.

It is hard for me to express in words the emotions I feel, as I stand here on this hallowed ground representing Her Majesty The Queen, that most gracious lady Queen Elizabeth the Second. When my wife and I were at Buckingham Palace last year Her Majesty asked me to convey her love and best wishes to all her people in New Zealand.

I called this piece of land here at Waitangi hallowed for two particular reasons.

One is of course, that it was the site where 138 years ago today New Zealand came into being as a nation.

The other reason is that the Treaty made one nation of two races. And, as Lord Cobham said at these celebrations 19 years ago: "Waitangi is one of the few places on earth where good sense once prevailed over passions and prejudice, bringing together two races who settled down together to achieve full nationhood for a young and undeveloped country."

This was our birthplace as a nation. A birth always has its pains and growing up is not always easy. Brothers and sisters in any family often have their differences and their squabbles.

I don't think any of us will dispute the fact that the worthy principles laid down on February 6, 1840 have not always been lived up to.

But I do feel that it is vitally important to remember that New Zealand was not secured to the British Crown by military conquest, but by agreement and a treaty.

Although the Treaty aroused controversy, it did succeed in recognising the dignity and rights of the Mori people, while making clear to them the inevitability of European colonisation.

I would think that the 46 Mori chiefs who gathered here in 1840 realised that this was a sincere attempt by the British to found a new colony on a just footing.

The day before the signing of the Treaty, they met on this marae for one sole purpose - to discuss the future of the Mori people.

They decided to accept British law, British rule and protection - and in exchange they received all the rights and privileges of full British citizenship.

Side by side with the Pakeha the Mori has served the Crown with loyalty and distinction throughout the years since those 46 chiefs made their great decision.

It would be a tragedy for that decision to be tarnished by differences that may arise from time to time, differences which should be settled by a little commonsense and negotiation.

We must remember the "Spirit of Waitangi" was very nearly lost during the local wars and, in fact, forgotten or neglected by many until 1932 when Lord Bledisloe, the then Governor-General, bought and gave the Waitangi Estate to the nation.

We owe a very great debt to Lord Bledisloe, for, by his act, he reminded us that this place is the birthplace of our nation. And we do well to celebrate it.

New Zealand is renowned in the world for the harmony between its two peoples and this union has been fostered by the respect and admiration we have for each other.

It has been fostered in our schools, at work, on sporting fields and, in two World Wars.

We have had our trials and tribulations in the past, and we have come through them fairly successfully - more successfully than in most countries in today's troubled and worried world. I am confident we will continue to do so in the years ahead.

On this day, let us remember the great decision made here 138 years ago. Governor Hobson said: "We are one people".

We must not only say that, but must also live up to that ideal.

In the blending of our cultures, each has much to offer.

The spirit of kindliness, courtesy, hospitality and tolerance must be shown equally by both peoples.

It is up to us all - Mori and Pakeha - to make sure our relationships are based on the principles of justice, equality and racial harmony, the seeds of which were sown here in 1840. May God guide us in those ways.

To you all, aroha nui. Kia ora.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

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