Kate Hawkesby: We need to change the way we cover Waitangi Day

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Monday, 5 February 2018, 6:51a.m.
If her five days up there generates any real long-term tangible improvements to the way we commemorate Waitangi Day in this country then that’s a win. (Photo \ NZME)
If her five days up there generates any real long-term tangible improvements to the way we commemorate Waitangi Day in this country then that’s a win. (Photo \ NZME)

How the PM found five whole days to spend at Waitangi is beyond me. I would've thought getting five straight days of the PM’s time would be a big ask. So good on her for clearing her schedule for such a large chunk of time. And what a warm reception (unsurprisingly), she’s receiving. I’m making a pretty solid bet there won’t be any dildo’s thrown at her. And I know that being pregnant isn’t a disability, and she’s an extremely capable woman but when I see her sitting in those marquees, in searing heat, listening to long speeches, being patted and hugged, I can’t help but feel for her. I want to take her a cup of tea and tell her to pop off for a lie-down. Her schedule looks exhausting and I’m not even pregnant. Is she suffering any morning sickness? Because sitting still in a hot tent must be testing those particular limits. The flipside is, if you’re going to go somewhere for five days and be around people, a culture so respectful of whanau is the place to do it.

A pregnant PM at Waitangi for a week is a perfect storm. Well, as long as it’s a Labour Prime Minister. So kudos to her for playing to her base, but more importantly, let’s hope something meaningful comes from it. So far, the media coverage of a day supposed to be “for all New Zealanders” has largely felt like it’s a day for the Prime Minister. Her greatest challenge may well be to deflect the enormous spotlight put on her, and try to share it around the issues, and those around her. It must be hard when you’re a rockstar PM, as she’s been anointed by the media, to sound like a team player to make it about more than just you.

If her five days up there generates any real long-term tangible improvements to the way we commemorate Waitangi Day in this country then that’s a win. Let’s hope we get more than just lots of photo opportunities of the PM peeling spuds in the marae kitchen.

I also hope she doesn’t get gifted any more baby names. Don’t get me wrong, it’s clearly an enormous honour but so far she’s only about four months along and we already have two.

Waru, gifted by the Ratana Church, and now from an Iwi Spokesperson at Waitangi, we have Waimirirangi. If the gifting of names keeps up at this rate, the baby may well end up with the world's longest name. Alternatively, the PM may just wing it and name her child something she’s thought of all by herself. Bruce or Sheryl might be a safe bet. Maybe Winston?

But back to Waitangi. It seems to've been conveniently forgotten that Bill English gave two speeches last Waitangi Day, parts in Te Reo in fact. He spoke at Bastion Point hosted by Ngati Whatua, his two speeches were widely praised by those present as being ‘remarkable’. He addressed pertinent issues as well as celebrating iwi enterprise, leadership and courage to make decisions the economic and cultural importance of iwi to the whole country. In a nutshell, it was positive.

But those speeches were barely reported. Why? Well, the positivity may be the first clue because Waitangi Day attracts a certain type of coverage. So perhaps if we are to make strides on Waitangi Day as a day for all New Zealanders then the way we cover it, might well be a good place to start.

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