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Tomorrow is our national day
By Todd Muller
Don’t allow a handful of agitants playing to the cameras define your experience.
Celebrate Waitangi Day by celebrating what it means to you and your family to live here in this amazing place. If you focus on that – you too will create Waitangi Days that will live in your memory.
I’ve visited Waitangi a few times in my life but two visits in particular will stay with me forever.
The first was travelling with Prime Minister Jim Bolger in 1995, when a protestor trampled and spat on the NZ flag in an extraordinary vulgar attempt to court notoriety and offend in the highest possible way representatives of the NZ Government and the Crown. Dame Cath Tizard was also sitting in the row in front of me.
I can remember the anger of the young people, stirred on by the Harawira clan and the tears of the elders who wept for the loss of prestige that those actions wrought.
Two hours later, I was in a hotel room with the Governor General and the PM getting phone reports from the upper marae.
Sir Don McKinnon was there trying to keep the peace between local protestors who had commandeered the flagpole and hoistered their own protest flag as alarmed Kiwi families watched on at the stand-off, with the Navy awaiting orders to pull down the flag and lift the NZ flag.
The calm heads of Tizard, Bolger and McKinnon prevailed – this is NZ, allow the protesters their space, ensure the safety of the Kiwis, cancel the festivities and don’t return until people are treated with respect.
Fast forward to 2012, one week after Waitangi and I was up staying at the hotel adjacent the treaty grounds and decided to go for a run about 4.30pm in the afternoon.
I ran around the entire grounds, by myself, the flagpole, the treaty house, all open to the public, I waved out to a local who warmly shouted a kia ora as I ambled my way past.
Only in New Zealand. Protest is allowed, even if it’s uncomfortable. National grounds, so open, so free, that you can run through our history without a gate, or barb wire to be seen.
Nowhere else in the world could you run through a national treasure by yourself, undisturbed.
I was so struck by this I stopped under the flagpole and looked out over Paihia to Russell and gave a private thanks to the powers that be, to be born in this generation, in this place, in this time.
Happy Waitangi Day.