Iwi surprised Manawatū town holding Feb 6 'Settlers Day' celebration

Fri, Jan 13

By Enya Murphy

Mana whenua based in the Manawatū region are shocked and saddened to learn a group within the Kimbolton community plan to hold an event celebrating European settlers on Waitangi Day.

Kimbolton is a small rural farming town north of Feilding.

The event organiser, Tony Waugh, told 1News the purpose of the event was to acknowledge the town's European heritage and he wasn't aware any recognised iwi existed in the area.

People were encouraged to dress in their best old-time outfits.

"My belief is that Waitangi Day is a holiday set aside for all New Zealanders to celebrate their connection to the land, their tangata whenua, in whatever fashion they wish," he said.

Despite the event being on Waitangi Day, there are no plans to acknowledge the Treaty of Waitangi in any way.

"We chose Waitangi Day because there are no events happening in this area."

However, Ngāti Kauwhata are the recognised iwi in the area, and only learned about the event after 1News brought it to their attention.

Spokesperson Meihana Durie said it caught his people by surprise.

"Surprise in the sense that this particular event has been arranged to take place on Waitangi, which is a day that is very important and special to all New Zealanders.

"The element of surprise [comes from] the fact that there isn't really reference or context around what Te Tiriti o Waitangi means for the region in relationship to Ngāti Kauwhata who are tangata whenua of the Orauwa valley region."

Durie acknowledges that the decision to hold the event on Waitangi Day may not have been a deliberate attempt to hurt anyone.

Waugh told 1News that was never his intention and he's open to speaking with iwi.

"If we have offended people we apologise," he said.

Expert's Opinion

Dr Rawiri Taonui, an academic, writer and adviser, made his feelings clear about the event on Twitter earlier this week.

"Interesting comment at end: "Dress up in your best old-time settler’s day clothes and come along for a fun filled day." one presumes no tangata whenua?"

It prompted others to wonder if the organiser were being "deliberately provocative and unaware", and questioning the use of the term "settler".

Others wondered what was wrong with it.

"So what is racist about this event exactly?"

Taonui told 1News "Waitangi Day is about New Zealanders and having a white settlers day comes across as mono-cultural, narrow and exclusive and in that context looks racist."

He added: "The main thing is to be inclusive."

He said there are two things that the Kimbolton community can do.

"One is contact Ngāti Kauwhata their in the phone book or online, they are easy to contact."

"The second option is that the Kimbolton organising committee steps down and we replace them with 5-year-olds.

He said young people today understood inclusivity and diversity.

Opportunity to strengthen relationship

Ngāti Kauwhata are keen to speak with organisers to resolve the issue, and see this as an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with the Kimbolton community.

"Perhaps the organisers and those associated with that particular day haven't considered the significance of Waitangi Day in its truest sense and that saddens us as Ngāti Kauwhata.

"Changing Settlers Day to an alternative day would be a good outcome and establish an opportunity to talk and discuss about what else could be done in future moving forward."

Waugh stated that they are still in their planning stage and that local iwi can get involved.

Ngāti Kauwhata say that they will take this opportunity to educate.

"I think education now [is] probably one of the most important priorities."


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