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Waitangi Day – Message from ANZSOG Dean and CEO Ken Smith

1 February 2022

News and media


Image of Wellington, New Zealand

On Sunday 6 February Aotearoa New Zealand will observe Waitangi Day, the national day that commemorates the signing of modern Aotearoa’s foundation document 182 years ago – the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti O Waitangi).

Waitangi Day is commemorated as a public holiday with official, community and whanau (family) events across Aotearoa New Zealand, which highlight and celebrate Māori culture and the relationships and partnerships between Māori and Pākehā (non-Māori).

While many events in Aotearoa New Zealand have been cancelled or scaled down due to the outbreak of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the day maintains its importance as a chance to reflect on the importance of Treaty obligations and to look forward as a nation which formally recognises its full history.

The Treaty was signed by the British Crown and about 540 Māori Rangatira (chiefs) in 1840 at Waitangi, Northland and aimed to protect the rights of Māori to keep their land, forests, fisheries and treasures while handing over sovereignty to the British.

The establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975 has provided a legal framework for the restitution of claims by Māori, who believe there was a breach of the Treaty principles of partnership, participation and protection. More than 2,000 claims have been lodged with the tribunal, and major settlements have been reached recognising the claims of many iwi (tribes). Other settlements are still in negotiation.

These settlements have served as the basis for partnerships between the Crown and Māori, and for iwi to gain recognition and compensation, as a means to build economic independence for their people.

The principles of the Treaty are now incorporated into the laws of New Zealand and the work of the Aotearoa New Zealand public service. The 2020 Public Services Act recognises the responsibility of the Public Service to support the Crown to fulfil its responsibilities under the Treaty and holds agencies accountable for meeting those responsibilities.

One of the principles involves working together in genuine partnership with iwi, hapū (sub-tribes), whānau (family) and Māori communities, to incorporate Māori perspectives and knowledge into the work of government.

For those of us in Australia, understanding the Treaty of Waitangi and its importance to modern Aotearoa New Zealand, is a chance to see a different approach to relations between government and First Peoples, based on recognition of First Peoples as a founding principle.

The New Zealand Government has been one of the owner governments of ANZSOG since our inception in 2002 and our work in Aotearoa New Zealand is an important part of our mission to improve public sector leadership and create public value across our 10 jurisdictions.

To all our Aotearoa New Zealand colleagues, alumni and friends we say: Kia pai to ra – have a great day. 

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