Rau rangatira ma e huihui nei,
Nau mai, haere mai ki Waitangi.
Tēnei aku mihi māhana mo te Kawanatanga Nahinara ki a koutou.
Kia ora huihui tatou katoa.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Today we commemorate 175 years of the Treaty of Waitangi relationship.
It’s a relationship we should all have pride in. And we should all have great confidence that it will continue to strengthen.
Like the first Maori who arrived here many hundreds of years ago, European settlers arrived by sea.
They must have had a sense of adventure. Like the first Maori navigators they braved the often ill-tempered Pacific Ocean to strike out from their homes and make landfall here.
The whalers, the sailors, the men and women who came here to till the land and take their chances – they would have had many reasons for leaving their homes in the Northern Hemisphere. Homes many of them would never see again.
But I bet they were united by a common thread of hope and optimism.
Hope for a better life than the one they had left behind.
And hope for a new society and new opportunities for themselves and their children.
Those who signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 began forging the bonds of the special partnership we share today.
Over time, those bonds have been tested.
The spirit of generosity with which Maori entered into this partnership was forgotten or ignored by many over the following decades.
But the Treaty partnership we commemorate today acknowledges the bonds that have underpinned the creation of a special country.
175 years. Just think about what we have achieved in that time. The great scientists, adventurers, sports men and women, pioneers and dreamers who call themselves New Zealanders.
The first person to split the atom, the first women voters, the first conqueror of Everest.
The first Rugby World Cup winners.
The artists, writers, singers and musicians, actors and directors who not only entertain us, but who have also created a body of stories and songs which could have only been made in New Zealand.
And the leaders, Maori and Pakeha alike, who have developed a Treaty partnership which is admired around the world.
That’s a lot to be proud of.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Waitangi Day is a day to remember and to understand the very many pieces that make up our country’s history. The high points, the low points, the triumphs, the mistakes and the unexpected successes.
And it’s also a day to look beyond the horizon and to our future.
I am sure the Treaty signatories here at Waitangi felt the same.
The missionaries, sailors, traders and Maori – watched over by police on horseback who were sent from Sydney – packed the Treaty grounds on the 5th of February 1840.
They mingled with people hawking cold roasts, pork and bread, and rum-sellers, and the bay was a flotilla of canoes and ships with flags flying.
The delegation of Maori was so large that five tonnes of potatoes and 30 pigs were brought in, so guests were properly fed.
The next day, the 6th, was meant to be a rest day.
But, after coming ashore that morning, Britain’s consul, Captain William Hobson, was surprised to find several hundred Maori wanting to continue discussions.
They met under the marquee, made of stitched-together sailcloth, surrounded by a handful of Europeans.
By the end of the day’s discussion, around 40 Maori leaders had signed the Treaty.
To each of those leaders, Captain Hobson said, “he iwi tahi tatou” – we are one people.
Māori and the British representatives signed the Treaty of Waitangi in good faith.
And the generosity of Maori, and the good faith of both people, has led to the New Zealand we know today, and to the relationship we share.
We have some of the best legacies of Britain: a stable democracy, an elected Parliament, an independent judiciary and a free press.
And we have a culture infused with the customs, knowledge and tikanga of the tangata whenua.
We welcome people from all parts of the world who want to make New Zealand their home, because they want to be part of the nation we have created.
The Treaty is a formal agreement but it must be interpreted over time, and adapt to new situations, through negotiation between the Treaty partners.
Many issues have a long and nuanced history, lived through by many people from all walks of life.
There are still things to work through.
But I am confident that when we celebrate the bicentenary of the Treaty signing in 2040, we will look back to today and be proud of what we have achieved since.
That’s 25 years away.
The last big Treaty commemoration was in 1990 – 25 years ago.
Those 25 years have passed quickly. It seems like too short a time for anything in New Zealand to have changed much at all.
But in 1990 things were different.
New Zealand, for example, was governed under First Past the Post.
The Maori Party didn’t exist.
Now, it’s difficult to imagine Parliament without them.
The Maori Party has brought a rich dimension to this Government since 2008.
It’s one of the reasons why the Crown and Maori have come so far over the past six years.
One area we are working on together is reforming Te Ture Whenua Māori Act. It’s the most significant re-writing of this legislation in more than a century.
How best to develop Maori land, with its multiple owners, has vexed lawmakers for over 100 years.
We recognise that challenge, because it’s central to Maori economic development.
If we can make this land work for Maori, then it will add up to $8 billion to the economy and create at least 4000 new jobs over the next decade.
25 years ago, not one iwi had achieved a Treaty settlement.
That was still five years into the future.
The Crown has now signed 72 deeds of settlement – 46 of those in the past six years.
All willing and able iwi are engaged with the Crown.
Those settled iwi are creating success stories. They see the post-settlement environment as their chance to shape their own destiny.
Settlements may represent a fraction of what was actually lost. But they let iwi move on and make better futures, and create more opportunities, for their people.
New Zealand as a whole is better off for that.
My Treaty Negotiations Minister, Chris Finlayson, is unable to be here today.
But I know if he were here, he would reiterate to you his belief that by 2017, all willing iwi should be settled.
There have been other positive changes since 1990.
Education is one example.
In 1990, just over 3000 Maori school leavers achieved 6th Form Certificate. In 2013, 7500 Maori school leavers achieved NCEA Level 2 or higher. Taken as a proportion of Maori
school leavers, that’s a 20 per cent improvement.
The achievement rate among all school leavers is also rising, but among young Māori that improvement is happening at a faster rate.
Lifting the level of achievement in education among young New Zealanders is important, but it’s especially vital for young Maori who, for too long, have not achieved at the same level as non-Maori.
Yes, there certainly are challenges to educational achievement and we do have a long way to go to eliminate that disparity – but progress is evident.
A better education means equality of opportunity for New Zealanders, regardless of their background.
Time and time again, we see the evidence that success at school means better, higher-paying jobs, a greater standard of living and more opportunities.
Another area is health.
In the early 1990s around 50 per cent of Maori regularly smoked. Today it’s about 32 per cent.
That’s due in no small part to Tariana Turia, who has been passionate in her work to cut smoking rates among Maori.
Now, Maori are living longer – around six more years than in 1990. Immunisation rates among Maori children are up and infant mortality rates have fallen.
So in 25 years, many gains have been made. We can do even better over the next 25 years, too.
It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives at the expense of the many positives.
The Treaty settlement process may not be to everyone’s satisfaction.
But I’m a firm believer in the current process, which is addressing the wrongs done in the past to help Maori build their futures.
And on the world stage, it’s acknowledged as one of the best examples of efforts to address historical grievances.
I also think we’re maturing together, as a nation.
Nowadays, almost every time people sing God Defend New Zealand – at a school, at a sports match or a formal ceremony – we sing it in both Māori and English.
It wasn’t always that way – only in the past 15 years has it become widespread.
New Zealanders just started doing it, because it felt right.
It feels like the right kind of representation of who we are as a nation.
It’s the type of understated change that appears small, but one I think speaks volumes about how we have grown.
So in 25 years’ time, when New Zealand celebrates 200 years of nationhood, there are some changes I’d like to see.
In 2040, every willing and able iwi will be settled.
In 2040, all Maori owned land will be far better utilised, delivering jobs and prosperity, particularly for those in regional areas.
And in 2040, I want to see the disparity in educational achievement eliminated.
For young Maori, this means really digging in to lift achievement.
For the Government, it means ensuring our education system works for all students. It also means developing initiatives to support young people and families in other areas.
Like free doctors’ visits for under-13s.
Like subsidising early childhood education.
And getting our schools, social organisations and law enforcement agencies to work together so children don’t stumble into a life of petty crime or welfare dependency.
Governments can’t make these changes by themselves.
We also need to get alongside families and give them the right support. It’s not just about throwing money at a problem.
Because you can’t buy the dedication of communities who want to rid their streets of drugs and crime.
And you can’t buy the dedication of a mother who is trying to keep her 14-year-old son in school.
When you give families what they actually need, great changes can happen.
Maori children, for example, are now being immunised at nearly double the rate they were in 2007. So I’ve no doubt the willingness – and the ability – to chase success in education is there, with the right support.
So that’s what I would like to see in 2040. There is one more aspect of New Zealand I would like to see changed.
In 2040, I’d like to see a new New Zealand flag raised at the Waitangi Day dawn service.
That’s my personal preference.
The current flag represents the thinking by and about a young country moving from the 1800s to the 1900s. Our role in the world was very different then. Our relationship to the rest of the world has changed over time.
I think, and I believe many New Zealanders feel the same, that the flag captures a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed.
During this parliamentary term, New Zealanders will be asked to participate in a two-step referendum process to choose an alternative flag, and decide whether or not that flag should replace the current one.
I believe the time is right for us to create a flag which is distinctly New Zealand’s.
At the same time, I acknowledge there may be many New Zealanders who want to retain the existing flag, and that will be one option.
Regardless of your view, this milestone year in our history is a good time to discuss the flag, formally and respectfully, allowing New Zealanders to have their say.
Maori chose New Zealand’s first flag – known today as the flag of the United Tribes – in 1834, when James Busby, the British Resident, decided chiefs needed to choose a flag that New Zealand’s ships could fly.
Three flags were displayed on short poles at Waitangi, voted on, and the winning one hoisted.
I imagine it was all over in a matter of minutes. The process this time around will be much more considered, but I have every expectation Maori will be closely involved, just as they were in 1834.
If we choose a new flag, it will serve us in times of celebration and remembrance, like Waitangi Day.
On Waitangi Day we remember when our nation-building began, and we celebrate the hope and optimism our forebears must have felt when they oversaw the creation of a new country.
It’s a day when we draw confidence for our future from the sense of our past.
In 175 years, New Zealand has achieved much. In the 25 years since the 150thanniversary of the signing of the Treaty, some of those achievements, like the settlement process itself, have brought about great change.
I am confident the next 25 years will deliver more promises, passion and achievements as we work together to tackle the challenges that will be thrown at us.