Waitangi Day Speech - Dame Susan Devoy

Waitangi Day Speech - Dame Susan Devoy

February 6, 2015

Waitangi Day, Hopukiore/Mt Drury, Tauranga

Ko Tauranga te moana,
Ko Mauao te maunga,
Tena koutou katoa.

I am honoured to be with you today. I am proud to stand with the people of Tauranga. But most of all, I am grateful.

Because today on our 175th Waitangi Day, the people of Tauranga Moana stand together. As you know we haven’t always stood together.

The Treaty was signed by two peoples 175 years ago. Back then Tauranga Moana iwi were exporting more produce than any other area in New Zealand. Our tribes were growing crops on tribal lands, processing them in their own warehouses and exporting them to Australia on their own vessels. Our regional economy was created by the tribes of Tauranga Moana: this is something all locals need to know.

But the Treaty was not honoured and the ground rules were changed beneath the feet of Tauranga Moana iwi. 150 years ago the tribal lands of Tauranga Moana were confiscated by the Government. And more than a century later it’s our generation who are witnessing the resolution of injustices that have been felt by generations of Tauranga families.

The injustice is something we can never be proud of but we can be proud that together we are working to replace injustice with justice. The Treaty settlements process is unique and world leading, it sets us apart from other nations.

If you look around the world right now it’s pretty obvious that ignoring injustice and grievance does not make them go away. So I am proud that we can look back at our shared past with open eyes. We can look each other in the eye and start sorting things out. We don’t agree all the time but it’s a start.

There are some of us who will make a maunga out of a molehill and argue that we shouldn’t even try to pronounce Maori words properly. But there are more of us who know that to guarantee our children and grandchildren a country we can be proud of: we have to start now, by working together.

It’s ironic that Gareth Morgan’s house is just over there, I’d like to congratulate our neighbour for having a go and putting his views out there. Brave conversations, courageous korero is what we need to be having more of.

Kiwis should be grateful we have a Treaty. 175 years ago our ancestors agreed that all Kiwis have rights. Not just European, Maori or rich Kiwis: the Treaty guaranteed that all Kiwis have rights.

I believe the Treaty is New Zealand’s founding human rights document. We should be pretty proud that this is what our nation is founded on.

Back in 1840 the notion that all people had human rights was a world leading concept because in most so called civilised nations: slavery was still legal. The Treaty of Waitangi and our ability as a people and a nation to be honest about our past is our insurance policy for the future.

Bishop Manu Bennett said the Treaty was a promise of two peoples to take the best care of each other. Maori culture is an intangible cultural treasure that binds and defines all New Zealanders.

Take the haka, it’s about focusing people for the journey ahead, it’s about honouring people, it’s about uniting people. The spine tingling haka our own local schools perform – boys and girls from all ethnic backgrounds – are a sight to behold and one as a Mum and a New Zealander that makes me feel so proud of our younger generation. They give us all hope.

Even our national anthem – thanks to our Kids we sing it in both of our languages, te reo Maori and English. Our Kids are our greatest hope for the future.

New Zealand is now one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth. When it comes to race relations New Zealanders are doing better than we’ve done before.

But we can do better, in fact: we have no choice but to do better. We’re pretty good and learning from our past in New Zealand – planning for our future is something we need to get better at.

We can’t just say She’ll Be Right and hope for the best. If we don’t plan for our future and our children’s future now – chances are, She Won’t be Right.

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy

Dame Susan Devoy DNZM, CBE has worked across the sport, community and charity sectors since she retired undefeated as the world women's squash champion in 1992.

A member and chair of the Halberg Trust, patron of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand and other charities, Dame Susan was the Chief Executive Officer and Chair of Sport Bay of Plenty.  

She has served on the Auckland District Health Board, the Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust and chaired BNZ Partners, Bay of Plenty. 

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