"January is a gone burger and, sadly, so is the holiday absence of routine." Jonny Wilkinson's latest column for the Northern Advocate looks at the recurring debate around the meaning, and the name, of Waitangi Day and how much the day's controversy has become a familiar part of our return to life's routine after the summer break.

January is a gone burger and, sadly, so is the holiday absence of routine: Sleeping in, late lunches of k​ai ​moana, evening swims. Even the obligatory slow start year has ended. Students are back to class; invoices are being issued and paid. Yes it's ROUTINE as usual. A phrase that always makes me snicker when I​remember​ my late father using it years ago on New Year's Eve morning.

Me; "what are you doing tonight Farth?"  Farth; "routine as usual” said in a very clipped English accent which, unfortunately, made the first word sound like 'rooting'. This made Sally, my brother Tim and me laugh uncontrollably until Farth walked out muttering "mucky minded bastards!”​

As Waitangi Day looms other routines kick into life in Pavlovian fashion, with the inevitable debate over renaming the day from Waitangi Day to New Zealand Day.

The Pros; "it should be for everyone we're all New Zealanders" the cons; “it debases and dilutes the Treaty​". I contacted Paul Moon, a prolific writer of New Zealand history and biography, specialising in Māori history, Treaty of Waitangi and the early period of Crown rule. ​ I asked him what his thoughts on the matter were. He said "If you take Waitangi out of the name of the Day then you amputate the history of the partnership that makes NZ unique.” ​Totally!

​I feel we should definitely hold onto Waitangi Day. When one looks across the ditch to our less refined neighbours and consider how they celebrate their creatively named national day one can't help but notice a vacuum of culture in the celebrations. To most Aussies it's a day off and a barbie with mates and family. There is debate and somewhat subdued protests over the name. Many Aboriginal people​feel the name should be "invasion day" or mourning day. Hey, I feel that!

There is often disquiet over the more high profile protests that occur in Waitangi on Waitangi Day. But there lies the difference between our countries. Our tang​ata whenua staunchly defend their identity and the promises that were made to them, and the majority of us know this on some level. I'm glad that Robert Muldoon overturned the name change in 1975, I'm glad there will be protests in Waitangi on the day, and I'm glad it will be routine as usual.

Jonny Wilkinson is the CEO of Tiaho Trust - Disability A Matter of Perception. A Whangarei based disability advocacy organisation.

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A Different Light - Northern Advocate column 03 February 2018 pdf 330 KB

Published 05/02/2018

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