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Waitangi Day demonstrates “growing confidence in our nation”

Posted on: February 9, 2016 9:22 AM
Worshippers at a Waitangi Day church service on the marae atea (a Māori ceremonial public meeting space) in front of Te Whare Runanga (the Treaty House) where New Zealand’s founding document was signed.
Photo Credit: Anglican Taonga
Related Categories: Abp Richardson, indigenous, New Zealand

[ACNS] Church services have been held to mark Waitangi Day – the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840.

The Treaty is the founding document of New Zealand in which Maori chiefs ceded governorship to the British Crown, in exchange for the Crown guaranteeing their rights to the “undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties. . .”

The later years of the 20th century were marked by growing demands to “honour the Treaty”.

That led to the 1975 Treaty of Waitangi Act which set up a tribunal to investigate alleged Crown breaches of the Treaty, and to the adoption by Anglicans in New Zealand of a new church constitution.

Archbishop Philip Richardson took part in this year’s Waitangi Day celebrations – and in a reflection published today he said that the 176th anniversary commemorations showed “a growing confidence in our nation” and a “coming together” of different people who are “ready to unite over . . . shared concerns.”

One church service was held at sunrise at Te Whare Runanga – the meeting house on the Treaty grounds – and another later in the morning on the marae atea – a Māori ceremonial public meeting space in front of Te Whare Runanga.

“As I worshipped, then wandered through the day at Waitangi, trying to soak it all in, I sensed that something deep is stirring,” Archbishop Richardson told Anglican Taonga. “Something that goes beyond the excitement of buzzing markets, a thought-provoking new museum – or the theatrics of politics.

I sensed a growing confidence in our nation.

“That new confidence is grounded in realism – there is much to do, justice is a long time coming, and relationships have to be constantly worked at. There’s no sugar-coating that reality.

“But as a nation we are becoming more comfortable about being together in all of our differences. We’re finding new places where we can forge common purpose.”

Archbishop Richardson said that during the day he heard speeches about a range of issues including a regional free trade agreement - the Trans-Pacific Partnership; concerns about rangatiratanga, or sovereignty; dangers to the environment; and about the possible taxation of water.

“Time and again I heard people saying that any attempts to commodify water are unacceptable, that water is a gift, and not a commodity to be bought and sold,” Archbishop Richardson said.

“There were many Pakeha [New Zealanders of European descent] families listening to that [debate] and my sense is that those concerns struck a chord with them, too.

“In other words, as a country we are coming together to care for God’s creation, to recognise the sacredness of the environment for which we are stewards, and more and more we are ready to unite over these shared concerns.

“So I’ve come away from Waitangi feeling that we should be grateful for the strong, strident voices calling us to reconsider and to question. Surely the voice of protest is essential in a free nation?

“Yes, relationships have to be worked at and cared for. But let's not give up, nor become complacent.

“I believe ‘our’ day is a day of which we can all feel proud. I’m grateful for all the Treaty offers everyone who lives in this land. It’s a covenant based on generosity and hospitality, and at Waitangi, I sensed a determination that the rights and needs of future generations will not be sold to present-day expediency.

“Now that is something to celebrate.”

In 1992, the old Anglican Church in New Zealand ceased to be, and Anglicans in that part of the world adopted a new constitution which aimed to reflect the principles of the Treaty, and a new name: “The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia”.

Within the province, there are three partners, or Tikanga (the Maori word for customary values and practices), who order their affairs within their own cultural context: Māori, Pakeha (European) and Pasefika.

Tikanga Pasefika comprises Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands, and is known as the Diocese of Polynesia. Within New Zealand itself, the Tikanga Pakeha comprises seven dioceses while the Tikanga Māori comprises five dioceses, or Hui Amorangi.

The Pakeha and Māori dioceses overlay each other with differing boundaries.

The Province is unique in the Anglican Communion in having three Archbishops who are all primates of equal status.

This article was amended on 10 February to correct the history of the Treaty of Waitangi and provide additional context.