Waitangi Day 2024: Ups, downs and best bits of Government's visit to Te Whare Rūnanga

The coalition Government, or so called "three-headed taniwha" were brought on to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds with a stirring Powhiri, in front of the biggest crowd the annual commemorations have seen in many years. 

They came with the promise of robust debate and they weren't disappointed. 

The mana of Nga Puhi and the guardians of Te Tiriti led the crown onto a packed paepae on the sacred Waitangi Treaty grounds on Monday. 

They were invited to engage in the discussion they've been asking for - a debate on the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. 

"To strip the Treaty of its mana, to belittle the reo by trying to make it a second-class language in our land? It ain't going to happen," former MP Hone Harawira started off by saying.  

"You want to gut the Treaty in front of all these people? Hell no!"  

Harawira wasn't afraid to tell ACT leader David Seymour in particular where to go.  

"When it comes time to see where this is going to go into legislation, you and your shitty arse bill are going down the toilet," he said.  

His speech spurred a group of protestors to march onto the pae, holding signs asking to honour the Treaty. 

When it came time for the Government to respond, Minister Shane Jones was honoured with a haka and ACT MP Nicole McKee was delivered a waiata. 

However, when Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters took the microphone, the spirit shifted. 

"This is very, very brief because we have another appointment with a number of ambassadors from overseas who have come all the way to this country, and they're important," Peters called out to the crowd. 

He received booing and yelling from those listening to his speech and decided to let rip. 

"Whoever said we're getting rid of the Treaty of Waitangi? Tell me. We didn't," he said. 

"You tell me who said we're getting rid of the Treaty of Waitangi?" he yelled. "Stop the crap! Stop the nonsense, stop the hysteria." 

"If you think separatism and division is going to take us to 2040, you're dreaming!" 

Peters, however, was unapologetic. 

"I thought it was combative and once you start using provocative language and you start up with an uppercut, you're eventually going to get one back," he told Newshub.  

"Well, there was certain protocol that when they were talking was accepted and when we were talking was not," he said.  

It was unsurprising to his closest colleagues. 

"I don't know why anyone was surprised by Winston, I wasn't," Jones told media following the speech.  

Seymour followed in Peters' footsteps

"I say to the Māori party, if you want to have a battle of ideas, then it helps to come armed for that battle," he said. 

He was insulted by the language used by members of the crowd. 

"Today I've heard people say that we are spiders on this side, that we are sand flies, well I'm sorry to say folks but not even Donald Trump is calling his opponents insects," he said. 

And those who were insulted by Seymour's words weren't afraid to drown him out with a waiata. 

"I got news for you, there are people up and down the country watching you, and they're asking why do those people have a right to stop the rest of New Zealand debating its own future. Newsflash, you don't," Seymour responded.  

"I thought it was very unfair and we should have done more, it's my apologies to them both, and for Nicole for that matter for not shutting that down earlier to give them the space and the time to articulate themselves clearly," chair of the Waitangi Nation Trust Pita Tipene said. 

The Prime Minister changed the Government's tune, waiting patiently for his turn to speak, and recite his scripted version for the future

"Unity doesn't mean all of us being or thinking exactly the same, we can value our differences, we can debate them constructively while respecting each other and still find a pathway to a better future together," Luxon said.  

On that perhaps not everyone agrees. 

"We still have some way to go, we are not on the same page," Waitangi Treaty Grounds chief executive Ben Dalton told Newshub.  

Judging by the day, the pages don't even seem to be in the same book.