Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand Trade & Investment Commissioner Michael Greenslade led a small Pacific Island delegation to New Zealand’s National Day in Waitangi, Northland. This was the fourth Waitangi Day celebrations PTI NZ attended.
The delegation included PTI Advisory Board Chair John Crawford, Board member Rachel Afeaki Taumoepeau and her husband Aleki and the new Pacific Cooperation Foundation CEO Ratu Craig Strong and his wife.
Mr Greenslade related his experiences to Pacific Periscope:
“Our visit to Waitangi in 2018 was remarkable and a visit to Waitangi on Waitangi Day is fast becoming a must do, for all New Zealanders and their families, on their Bucket List!
“When we first started going all sorts of people were advising us against it. Asking if we had insurance, wishing us well — it seemed as if we were going into a Timor Leste in the bad old days!
“But all our attendances at Waitangi were wonderful experiences and the participation of our Pacific people has been a valuable sharing of culture assisting the growth of personal and business relationships.
“Sponsor Matua Shane Jones, now Minister of Regional Economic Development, hosted his traditional Waitangi function, which this year also doubled as the New Zealand celebration of his marriage to Dot in January in the beautiful Cook Islands.
“As always, the food, guests and music were first class and the delegation felt privileged to be invited.
“But the highlight for many was an informal attendance by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Her speech and her patient availability for selfies was something the delegation took advantage of!
“History was made on Monday the day before the public celebration. The normally intense meetings held at the Te Tiriti O Waitangi marae [known as the lower marae], when the traditional political discussions take place, were negotiated out of the programme and events moved to the upper marae at the Treaty Grounds.
“Acknowledgement was made of the pre-Waitangi Day collaborative discussions lead by local MP and Labour Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis resulting in a pan political event at the Upper Marae.
“On Waitangi Day, the atmosphere was pleasant and the weather warm. The speeches were as expected, until without fanfare we realised we were listening to a speech from the Prime Minister.
“Very quickly people realised this was something special, the debate over women’s seating rights in a marae had come to a head, two years earlier when, Maori women complained that Annette King should not be seated in the front row igniting a highly emotional debate between local Maori. Since then, clearly local MPs Kelvin Davis and Shane Jones had made more progress than had initially been realised!
“Whilst the right to speak on the marae was historically important so was the content. The Prime Minister’s address was a well-researched and inclusive speech lifting a level higher than the carefully crafted political addresses the audience had already witnessed. Right down to breaking down of the barriers that some sought to build around this day, the morning tea was opened to all attending.
“Prime Minister Ardern invited not just those on the seats inside the white ropes but also the locals and tourists outside the ropes!
“In my view this was a symbolic opening of the Waitangi Weekend to all New Zealanders.
“Waitangi Day has always been a festive day at Waitangi.
“With family style events a plenty, after the dawn service, this year I noticed something different. We looked but found no gang insignia! Last year, the Mongrel Mob and Black Power had been prominent in supporters of the Hikoi of Hope about the misuse of methamphetamines by young Maori. But this year the branding was different.
“There was an increasing number of tribal based T-shirts replacing the usual sporting and gang brands. We also visited three different screen printing companies who are producing artistic and very cool products.
“Sales were brisk!”