By Michael Greenslade, Trade Commissioner, PT&I New Zealand
For the third year, the Auckland office of Pacific Trade & Invest represented the Pacific at the celebrations of the founding of New Zealand, formalised in the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The initial treaty was signed on February 6th by Maori Leaders and British representatives of the Crown at Waitangi in 1840 in the beautiful Bay of Islands
Our delegation was made up of PT&I Trade Commissioner Michael Greenslade, my wife Kate, PT&I Business Development Manager Ian Furlong and his wife Jackie, Founding Chairperson of the New Zealand Tonga Business Council Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau, her husband Aleki and Auckland Consul General for Fiji, Harish Lodhia and his wife Jyoti.
On Saturday evening we were invited by Pacific Ambassador Matua Shane Jones and his whanau to their home in Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands, for a hangi (food cooked in an earth oven). There were over 240 guests including members of the Wellington-based Diplomatic Corps, members of all the major political parties in Parliament and Ariki, Rangatira and Kaumatua from Maori throughout New Zealand.
At 8am on Sunday morning, we accompanied the Diplomatic Corps and Matua Shane Jones to the famous Lower Marae Te Tii Marae for a special greeting and introduction from the local iwi.
It was a wonderful friendly occasion with Iwi hosting morning tea. Each member of our delegation formally introduced themselves to the locals. The delegation had a strong Pacific representation with the High Commissioner of Samoa and the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Leasi Papalií Tommy Scanlan leading the delegation. Niue’s High Commissioner to New Zealand, Mrs O’Love Jacobsen leading the Waiata (song) in response.
Later on in the morning the full delegation was introduced and addressed by the Governor General of New Zealand Dame Patsy Reddy at her first Waitangi Day on the Upper Marae. We enjoyed tours of the Treaty Grounds, Treaty House, Te Whare Runanga (The Meeting House), The Waka (Ceremonial War Canoe) and Te Kongahu – The Museum of Waitangi.
On Monday morning – Waitangi Day, our delegation attended the public festivities, integral to the family atmosphere of Waitangi. This also included the welcoming of the pan Iwi Hikoi (march) to raise awareness of the drug Methamphetamine or ‘P’ and the effect on Northland communities.
It was amazing how friendly and inclusive the whole experience of attending Waitangi. The impact on our Pacific guests was lifelong.
It was such a pity then that an angry three-minute sound bite that appeared later on Prime time television created the wrong impression, of what was, a peaceful friendly three days of very mixed and busy social, political, religious and Iwi programmes.
For more information contact Michael Greenslade on firstname.lastname@example.org