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Waitangi Day Warms To Debate

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Feb 6 NZPA - A generally peaceful Waitangi Day this year was marked with mudslinging and jostling confined to debate on the flag, the Foreshore and Seabed Act and Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

The day was celebrated by thousands of people in scores of centres around the country as the nation enjoyed mostly fine, warm weather.

About 500 people, including both Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader Phil Goff, attended the service at the Treaty Grounds meeting house at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands to mark the 170th anniversary of Waitangi Day.

Ngapuhi elders, armed forces representatives and the diplomatic corps, who attended for the first time in 15 years, were also present.

Events at Waitangi's Te Tii Marae were peaceful, in contrast with previous years -- in 2004 Don Brash was pelted with mud, former prime minister Helen Clark avoided the marae after her right to speak there was challenged last year and last year Mr Key was jostled.

The tino rangatira and New Zealand flags were flown at Parliament grounds and on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, but the tino rangatira flag was not flown at Waitangi.

A handful of protesters wanting a new national flag burnt the New Zealand ensign at Hamilton's Waitangi celebrations, TVNZ reported.

Jack Gielen of the Republican Party said the New Zealand flag was a fictitious creation that bore no relation to people in New Zealand today.

Meanwhile, Mr Key said the division created by the foreshore and seabed debate showed why it was necessary to get Treaty of Waitangi claims settled as soon as possible.

Quick but just settlements of Treaty grievances were needed to ensure the country was able to move forward. Settling all the claims by 2014 as National promised in its 2008 election campaign would be challenging but was in the grasp of the Government and iwi, he said.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, Dr Sharples said he hoped the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 could be repealed this year, but warned that a solution was needed which most New Zealanders could support.

Meanwhile, Maori Party MP Hone Harawira challenged the Government to hand full title to Maori while ensuring full access to all New Zealanders.

Mr Harawira told a hikoi he had three key principles he wanted in any repeal of the Act, which angered many Maori and led to the formation of the Maori Party.

"One, Maori title of the foreshore and seabed," he said. "Two, in case anyone is scared we will sell it, make it (title) inalieanable. Three, full access to all New Zealanders forever."

Meanwhile, in the South Island, The Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand gave his first Waitangi Day address in a location other than Government House Auckland or Wellington.

He attended the Ngai Tahu Treaty Festival at the Onuku Marae in Akaroa, where in 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed in the South Island and also the place where in 1998 the Crown gave its apology for breaches of the Treaty in its dealings with Ngāi Tahu.

Sir Anand paid tribute to Ngai Tahu and its progress since it settled its Treaty of Waitangi claims more than a decade ago.

"Since the settlement, the tribe has not only protected and significantly enhanced its wealth, but also launched initiatives to regenerate its culture, its language, the health of its people, and the educational opportunities available to them."

Yesterday, as part of the Waitangi celebrations, Takapuneke Reserve was blessed.

The reserve, formerly known as Greens Point, was where Ngai Tahu chief Te Maiharanui and 150 of his people were massacred in 1830 by rival Maori.

"To us it's very significant we have finally procured a piece of land for the nation of New Zealand. It's a very significant site," said upoku of Onuku Marae, George Tikao.

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