Saturday, February 05, 2005

national day should stay

While I think that Peter Dunne is someone who consistently makes constructive and useful contributions to the debate about national identity, I disagree strongly with his push to have our national day shifted from February 6th.

Waitangi Day whould remain our national day for two reasons:

1) The signing of the Treaty (whatever your views on it's interpretation) on February 6th 1840, unified New Zealand as a country under one sovereign. Prior to the Treaty, sovereignty in this country, under the doctrine of aboriginal title, rested with individual iwi and hapu. Before the Treaty there was no country called New Zealand, after it there was.

Events such as the signing of the Statute of Westminster, suggested by Dunne as an alternative, simpy do not have the same historical significance.

2) The fact that there are divided opinions about the meaning of Waitangi Day, leading at times to protest and controversy, doesn't in my view amount to a national crisis. While I would prefer a focus on the many positives in NZ on the day itself, the fact that there is a heated national debate about the meaning of Waitangi is actually a sign of maturity.

We as a country have faced up to our difficult past in a way that few others have. Plenty of other countries brush difficult topics around race relations under the carpet and engage in feel-good, but ultimately pointless flag waving on their national days. I would rather that we continue to have an open and honest discussion about our past and shared future

There's nothing wrong with a national day that as well as celebrating past events, reminds us that there is still work to be done to build a truly cohesive and just nation.

4 comments:

Greg Stephens said...

I agree that Waitangi Day should be our national day. But the adoption of the Statute of Westminster should also have a holiday instead (of Queen's Birthday?).
The Treaty of Waitangi established the legitimacy of the government in NZ much like the Declaration of Independence in the US or the Magna Carta in the UK.

stef said...

Or perhaps we could be like the yanks with thanksgiving day? I suggest parihaka day when we too can celebrate killing a whole lot of brown folks. hmmmmmmmm not such a good idea.

Right waitangi day it is.

span said...

isn't Parihaka Day the same day as Halloween?

stef said...

Why yes span, it is.