Sunday, February 06, 2005

In defence of Waitangi Day

The approach of Waitangi Day has brought the usual chorus of calls to rename or even replace our national day, on the grounds that the present one is "divisive", "marred by protest", or "all about guilt". I think these calls are mistaken. Waitangi Day emphasises the fact that the Treaty is the moral foundation of our constitution. It may not have legal force, and we may disagree about exactly what it means, but it is unquestionably where the whole project of "New Zealand" began. And that is something we ought to celebrate.

At the same time, along with celebrating, we should also reflect. The Treaty sets out a vision - a vision of cooperation and partnership, of Maori and Pakeha working together to build something new. At times, we have failed to live up to this ideal. We should remember those times, so that we don't make the same mistakes in the future.

Or alternatively, we could all just enjoy the summer while it lasts, while cursing the fact that we don't get a day off this year...