Analysis: Waitangi eve - What went down?

Politicians have now been fully welcomed onto the marae at the upper Treaty grounds in Waitangi, and struggled to keep the politics out of the protocol.

The parliamentary pōwhiri is a traditional ceremony that takes place the day before Waitangi Day, despite many politicians arriving in the preceding days.

Under heavy cloud and oppressive humidity, politicians attempted a swerve from politics with perhaps mixed results.

It followed mana whenua asking politicians to focus on the meaning of the day, rather than letting politics dominate. The sole use of te reo Māori was also strongly encouraged.

It featured speeches from haukāinga (hosts) as well as the politician manuhiri (guests).

Winston Peters is back, baby

Former deputy prime minister Winston Peters drew a press pack like ants to a bowl of honey before proceedings.

"I've said to them they cannot win," the NZ First leader told media at Waitangi today.

Asked about Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ ballot box odds, Peters said Hipkins had had a “Shipley bump and won’t last much longer than this”. Peters was referring to former prime minister Jenny Shipley, who took over from Prime Minister Jim Bolger after he lost the support of the National Party caucus.

While it sounds like a dance craze, the phrase “Shipley bump” shows Peters is still on top quip form - indeed, when later asked by a Newshub journalist if “Winston Peters is back, baby?” he said, “you better believe it”.

Shane Jones lists David Seymour’s genealogy

Speaking near the beginning of proceedings, former NZ First MP and minister Shane Jones regaled those gathered with David Seymour’s whakapapa Māori.

Seymour has whakapapa to Ngāpuhi, mana whenua of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

After listing Seymour’s whakapapa in te reo Māori, Jones switched to English saying he’d listed Seymour’s genealogy.

"I suggest that you live up to it."

Seymour speaks for four minutes in te reo Māori

David Seymour took to the microphone after Rawiri Waititi, and spoke for about four minutes entirely in Māori.

The crowd audibly murmured after he finished his speech without speaking English.

Act leader David Seymour at Waitangi.

He drew on notes only occasionally, with his words (and others') translated live for some through headsets.

In te reo Māori he said he did not agree with separating people.

"We believe in self determination, those who signed the Treaty would have agreed with our party perhaps."

He also conceded some may have disagreed.

In te reo, he said: “Some say the treaty calls for a partnership between two types of people. Tangata Whenua, and Tangata Tiriti.

“We disagree because division has never worked.”

Luxon talks on Treaty ‘experiment’ and ‘one nation’

Speaking at the pōwhiri, National leader Christopher Luxon spoke te reo briefly in the form of a brief mihimihi - acknowledging those who had passed.

He then spoke in English, saying the Treaty of Waitangi was an “imperfect but ultimately inspiring document," and that the country was better, more open and more tolerant because of it.

He also described the Treaty as “a little experiment” - something Greens co-leader Marama Davidson described as “a little bit patronising”.

Christopher Luxon at Waitangi.

When that was later put to Luxon, he said he didn’t mean it like that and New Zealand was an experiment.

In his speech at the pōwhiri, he said “together we are one nation”.

When asked by 1News whether he had considered the implications and possible associations with the phrase, Luxon said the phrase was not politically loaded in his mind and he used it because it was the theme - provided by haukāinga - for the speeches on the day.

This is correct - politicians were asked to speak on the theme 'he iwi tahi tātou', meaning 'we are one people'.

One Nation is an Australian political party founded by controversial politician Pauline Hanson, who in her 1996 maiden speech said she was concerned Australia was being “swamped by Asians”.

Hipkins ready for confrontation

Mirroring Christopher Luxon, Hipkins spoke briefly in te reo Māori before speaking in English for the majority of his speech.

He said Waitangi was an opportunity to commemorate a significant milestone in New Zealand history.

“I believe that the role of leaders is to light the path forward.”

He went on to say some debate was characterised by uncertainty and fear.

Chris Hipkins at Waitangi.

Hipkins said injustices in the Crown / Māori relationship were “not just a historical artefact” and had contemporary relevance today.

He said non-Māori had nothing to fear and “much to gain” in confronting that.

Greens say Seymour ‘whipping up racism’

The Greens appeared less impressed than others at David Seymour’s use of te reo, though said they did not seek to “diminish” someone’s efforts using the language.

Co-leader James Shaw said someone could “cloak” what they’re saying in “somebody else’s language - but it doesn’t change what you are saying”.

Co-leader Marama Davidson said “whipping up racism in any language is still whipping up racism”.

Presented with these comments, Seymour sighed and said, “Well, that’s Marama, isn’t it?”

Asked later if it was possible to keep politics out of Waitangi Day, Seymour said while it was conceivable to be purely ceremonial he didn’t think it could be.

If the kōrero in the Bay of Islands today was anything to go by, he may well be tika - correct.