Should Treaty celebrations be hosted by a different iwi each year?
David Seymour's call to "tour" the Treaty has found favour with left-wing Maori commentator and trade unionist Morgan Godfery — although the activist is cynical the ACT leader will follow through.
The plan has also won backing from AUT history professor Paul Moon, who says it would help avoid political stand-offs such as Prime Minister Bill English's boycott of this year's celebration after Te Tii refused to give him a speaking slot.
Currently, Treaty celebrations are held each Waitangi Day at Ngāpuhi's Te Tii Marae in the Bay of Islands.
"Te Tii Marae’s continued failure to respectfully host the government on Waitangi Day should prompt the Prime Minister to visit a different marae each year," Mr Seymour says.
“The behaviour of a small group of perpetually-grumpy activists has turned Waitangi Day into an annual political circus, denying Kiwis a national day we can all enjoy.
“It's never been clear why one iwi gets to monopolise the celebrations, the Epsom MP says. The Treaty wasn’t just signed at Waitangi, it went on tour and was signed by chiefs all over the country.
“If an iwi is going to host representatives of the Crown to symbolise this 177-year-old relationship, why not rotate the host iwi and location? It could be in a different place each year, perhaps following the path that the Treaty took during 1840?," he asks.
“Ngāpuhi activists have denied the whole country a proud national day a few times too many. Let’s take this show on the road. There were 20-odd signing locations so it'll return to Te Tii Marae in around 2037," Mr Seymour says.
“A bit of competition among locations might help to lift standards of behaviour, bringing some dignity and joy back to this special day.”
Mr Godfery — by no means a natural ally — is open to the ACT leader's idea.
"It's Interesting," the Maori commentator says. "His attack on 'Ngāpuhi activists' is a cheap shot, but the idea of taking Treaty celebrations on the road makes sense. The Treaty was signed across the country, after all."
He does temper his praise with a note of cynicism, however.
"I hope Seymour puts his press release into action and raises the idea at his next meeting with the Prime Minister. I'd hate to think this is just a publicity stunt," he says.
And indeed, Mr Seymour made the same call this time last year in an op-ed for the Sunday Star Times.
So did he do anything about it?
Did Mr Seymour take his "Waitangi tour" concept to the Prime Minister after that piece was published?, NBR inquired this morning.
"Yes but he went and resigned," Mr Seymour replied.
Before he exited stage left, did John Key was open to the idea?
"Well he didn’t do it, so no," Mr Seymour said.
He added, "I haven't formally met Prime Minister English yet. I will do when he’s back — but it will be too late for this year."
The ACT leader can try, but given the calculus of MMP any change would likely have to be initiated by the Maori Party.
History prof also gives it the nod
Earlier today, Mr English said he would not attend celebrations at Waitangi after being denied speaking rights by the Te Tii Marae committee.
AUT history professor Paul Moon says moving celebrations from Waitangi could help avoid future stand-offs.
"Other marae don’t have any problem with the prime minister speaking," he says.
Dr Moon says Waitangi will aways have special status as the place where the first signatures were added to the treaty, but he adds that other iwi in other areas also regard their role in the signing process as special.
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