The most sensible thing I heard during this year’s media circus at the Lower Marae was Gareth Morgan: “It’s their marae so they can do what they like. We need to find a way to work together and we’re not there yet.”
That’s exactly what Te Tiriti is all about, so what’s gone wrong?
I believe our media and politicians cause a lot of it. Both seem to think it’s their event, and they only pay lip service to tikanga.
The politicians see it as a place to gain personal advantage, almost as of right. Bill English spat the dummy because he wasn’t allowed to talk politics during the powhiri. Andrew Little used it as an occasion to launch Willie Jackson as Labour’s new star performer. Winston Peters walked away because he couldn’t choose his own background for a media interview. Shane Jones got in on the act because he’ll get more media attention there than anywhere else.
The politicians say it’s a national occasion so tikanga should take second place to what they want. The media say it’s a national occasion so they shouldn’t have to pay to film it, forgetting that the national occasion comes afterwards at the nearby Treaty Grounds and they pay filming rights for many other events. Furthermore media crews are growing much bigger and the space they take up on a small marae is becoming a problem.
We all see tikanga a bit differently, but I agree with Gareth. Te Tii marae is not a public place. No marae can ever be, in the sense that visitors can do whatever they please. Not unlike a church, and for similar reasons – marae are the spiritual home of hapu and a place they share with their tupuna. Of course all are welcome but exactly like guests in a private home or people at smoke-free events, manuhiri must respect the tikanga of the place where they are.
It’s not fair to blame the marae trustees, who are in a difficult position and can’t solve it on their own. This is a historic place where tikanga is everything, yet once a year it gets challenged by politicians, media and angry protesters who see it as secondary to their kaupapa. Bill English would never attend his local church and demand political speaking rights during prayers because he’s the PM, but that analogy is lost on people who don’t understand tikanga.
I’ll leave the last word to TV journalist Keith Slater on RNZ: “It’s not about the Prime Minister. It’s about Te Tiriti.” Not forgetting Gareth Morgan: “We’re not there yet.”