Lloyd Burr: Dignity returns to Waitangi with Te Tii Marae's absence

OPINION: I've covered Waitangi Day commemorations in Waitangi for the past five years. 

And I usually hate it. 

It makes me feel guilty for being pākehā. 

I usually get back to Wellington each year feeling disheartened about our country's race relations. 

And angry at the abuse and extortion I've received at Te Tii Marae for doing my job as a journalist. 

And embarrassed at some of the behaviour of self-appointed security guards manhandling me.

I usually return with a dagger in my heart after being treated with contempt because I'm a pakeha journalist, who presumably knows nothing about the Māori world and is set on destroying it.  

So naturally, I was dreading going to Waitangi this year. 

But I was pleasantly surprised. It was completely different. There had been a monumental change. The entire vibe of the commemorations had flipped. 

I walked away this year proud of New Zealand, and proud to be a Kiwi.

No one tried charging me $10,000 to cover the event.

No one told me to hire a scissor-lift so our cameras could see what was happening.

No one pushed me off the berm and onto the road. No one called me "dirty palangi media". 

Why? Because Te Tii Marae and its board had been removed from the equation. 

It's as simple as that. 

At Te Tii Marae, there are too many chefs and it spoils the broth. There are too many individuals playing divisive games and undermining one another. 

No one was in charge, yet everyone was in charge and the result was an absolute cluster. 

Removing Te Tii Marae as the host of the political formalities removed the drama, the arrogance, the fear, the intimidation, the hostilities, and confusion. 

All of the official engagements this year were held on the Treaty Grounds, which is run by a completely different board: the Waitangi National Trust Board. 

It was well organised and well run, and gave Waitangi commemorations what they have long been lacking: mana, respect, prestige. 

But that didn't come at the expense of debate and disagreement and discussions about breaches of the Treaty, which still happened, but with dignity, not dirt or dildos. 

The members of the Waitangi National Trust Board, particularly chairman Pita Pareone, should be praised for taking such decisive action. It wouldn't have been an easy decision for them to arrive at. 

But it was the right one. 

Lloyd Burr is Newshub's acting political editor.