Waitangi Day Address 2021

Issue date: Saturday, 6 February 2021
Speaker: The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO
Kei āku nui, Kei āku rahi, Nau mai, piki mai i runga i te aroha ki te kaupapa o te ra

Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou, Tēnā tātou katoa 
o everyone who has gathered in recognition of this most important day, welcome. Thank you all for joining David and me in commemorating Waitangi Day at Government House.

I acknowledge members of Parliament the Dean and other members of our Diplomatic Corps, members of local government including the Mayors of Wellington, Lower Hutt, South Wairarapa and Carterton; and Former Vice Regal couples Sir Anand and Lady Susan Satyanand and Sir Jerry and Lady Janine Mateparae. How much has changed since Waitangi Day last year, when thousands of guests gathered on the lawn in front of us. Since then, the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship have come sharply into focus.


In our small island nation, where so many people experience just a few degrees of separation from their compatriots, we have a new appreciation of the impact of our actions on the wellbeing of others. We understand that working together is our best way of keeping safe and well.

On Waitangi Day, we reflect on the foundations of our citizenship, and what they mean to us today and into the future. Our nation’s founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi – signed 181 years ago today – expressed the hopes and aspirations of the Crown and iwi signatories. They committed to an enduring relationship, based on mutual respect for each partner’s sphere of influence. However, as iwi were to discover to their cost, there was no agreed mechanism for continued dialogue about the Treaty partnership.

Generations struggled to establish effective dialogue, to halt repeated breaches of the Treaty and to obtain a measure of redress. Recently I came across an official report of meetings between iwi and Premier Richard Seddon in 1894 – during a tour, he took around the North Island. The Premier presented his report of the journey to the Governor of the day, Lord Onslow. The report recounts how Seddon travelled by horse and waka – and occasionally by rail and steamer – to visit Māori communities. At each stop, he asked the assembled gathering to tell him their concerns and explain what they wanted from his government. Not surprisingly, some of those conversations lasted all day and well into the night.  Their korero covered all manner of topics, including education and infrastructure, and disputes over land, legislation and Māori Parliamentary representation. Both parties frequently referred to their expectations under the Treaty, and noted points of agreement and disagreement. 

Over a hundred years later, when I have visited marae around Aotearoa, first in my capacity as a Chief Crown Negotiator in the Treaty Settlement process, and recently in my current role, I have found that many of the same issues are still topics of concern for hapu and iwi – and many are yet to be resolved. 

This is a sobering realisation and one that we cannot ignore. During the last four and a half years, in my term as our Queen’s representative – I’ve been reminded frequently of the responsibility I bear as a kaitiaki of our Treaty relationship. I’ve welcomed the opportunity to contribute towards our national conversation about Te Tiriti, and I’ve witnessed the momentum for change gather pace. I’ve seen how the Treaty Settlement process has taught many New Zealanders to consider and listen to new perspectives, and to be more at ease with our differences. 

In today’s turbulent world, where stirrings of racism and xenophobic extremism seem to be on the rise, the capacity to recognise other points of view, even when they differ from our own, is the sign of a maturity that we should all be proud of. I hope that Waitangi Day 2040 – the bicentenary of the signing of the Treaty – will be a day of celebration for all New Zealanders. At that point in our history, Māori and Pasifika are expected to make up around a third of the population of Aotearoa New Zealand. Iwi-led enterprises will be major players in their communities and our nation; the Crown’s post-settlement commitments will have borne fruit; our Parliament will be even more diverse and inclusive than it is currently; and Te Reo Māori will be spoken more widely, following the decision of a generation of young New Zealanders to study it before any other second language. Above all, more New Zealanders will know about our history, including our colonial history and appreciate that Treaty Settlements are not a zero-sum game, where one side’s gain is equivalent to the other side’s loss.

They will understand that our Treaty is a living document, requiring meaningful conversation between the Treaty partners that must continue for the foreseeable future.  In our commitment to that dialogue, we do well to draw on our recent experiences during our national response to COVID-19. Most New Zealanders have chosen to do right by each other. We chose to accept facts, rather than believe misinformation. We chose compassion and social responsibility over self-interest. We chose vigilance over complacency. And we chose hope over fear and denial.

An honourable Treaty relationship requires not only hope and optimism. It demands also that we do the right thing, and we show a duty of care, underpinned by consideration of Treaty principles. An honourable Treaty relationship puts the Treaty at the centre of our understanding of who we are as a nation and as a people.

There is a whakatauki that speaks of the strength gained from the many threads woven into the cloak of our nation: Ko te korihi a te manu e kiia nei, Whakarongo ake au, ki te tangi ā te manu, ā te mā-tui Tui-i-i   Tui-i-i  Tui tuia Tuia i runga, Tuia i raro Tuia i waho, Tuia i roto Tui te here tangata The bird heralds a new dawn I listen to the cry of the bird Of the matui, calling Tui-i-i  Tui-i-i  Tui tuia Let it be woven above, Woven below Woven without, Woven within Interwoven with the thread of humanity. When the principles of Te Tiriti are woven into our institutions and our daily lives, we do more than hope for better times. We make them happen. Whether our ancestors were iwi Maori, European pakeha, Pacific Island peoples, or from the many other cultures and countries who chose Aotearoa as their home, and even if you are yourselves new to our country, we all now share Te Tiriti as part of who we are and what we stand for. 

We are not all the same but we can celebrate our differences, knowing that together we are one nation.   He iwi kotahi tātou. We have an opportunity to harness our new sense of civic responsibility, to work together to achieve what everyone would want - a nation where everyone has a place to stand, everyone belongs, and where everyone can contribute and explore their potential. This is our best way – and indeed the only way – we can truly honour and advance the good faith, hopes and aspirations of those signatories to our nation’s founding document, 181 years ago today.

In the words of the famous rangatira and statesman, 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.

Noreira, tēna koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

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