To Speak, Or Not To Speak? – That Is The Question.


WAITANGI DAY is still more than half a year away: still plenty of time for Ngāpuhi to put things “right”. The promise made at Waitangi earlier this year: that from 2022 women politicians would be “allowed” to speak for themselves; will in all likelihood be honoured. The possibility exists, however, that Ngāpuhi  will refuse to be dictated to by Pakeha feminists. A stiff-necked people, they may decide that their time-honoured tribal customs are not to be overturned at the behest of “White Privilege”. Requiring the Prime Minister to nominate a male colleague to speak on her behalf would, after all, be an interesting test of Labour’s commitment to honour the ways of te ao Māori – a very interesting test.

Certainly, such a requirement would place Jacinda Ardern in a very uncomfortable position. The spectacle of the nation’s prime minister being denied the right to speak to her fellow citizens, personally, on New Zealand’s national day would generate massive antagonism among Pakeha of both sexes. A refusal to be guided by the customs of Ngāpuhi , on the other hand, would be regarded as a slap in the face by the whole of Maoridom. It would be interpreted as proof of the fundamental insincerity that still bedevils the Pakeha world when it comes to accepting and respecting the values of New Zealand’s indigenous culture.

Given that there are a great many more Pakeha than Maori, simple political arithmetic suggests that the Prime Minister’s best course of action would be to politely decline the invitation to attend the Waitangi Day celebrations on 6 February 2022, and find a less contentious venue from which to deliver her speech. That course of action would not, however, be politically cost free. It is easy to anticipate the Maori Party’s response to Jacinda’s “slighting” of Ngāpuhi . It would be presented as confirmation that for all their fine words about “partnership”, with Pakeha it is always “My way – or the highway.”

In left-wing circles the debate would be even more intense. Critical Race Theory would enjoin Whites to step away from their cultural and political privileges and accept the judgement of Ngāpuhi’s decision-makers. To do anything else, it would be argued (at least by some) requires the elevation of Pakeha notions of equality and liberty over Ngāpuhi’s understanding of women’s and men’s roles in the ceremonies of welcome and the processes of deliberation. Any assumption that the Western liberal tradition must take precedence over indigenous custom, these leftists would contend, is prima facie evidence of white supremacism. The Prime Minister would, in effect, be saying to Ngāpuhi : “My people’s values are superior to your people’s values.”

What’s more, that would remain the message, even if she chose to spend Waitangi Day somewhere else. Indeed, these leftists would argue that, in those circumstances, the message would be made much worse. By choosing to deliver her speech on the grounds of Government House – or somewhere like it – the Prime Minister would be guilty of “othering” Ngāpuhi . No matter what the text of her address might say, the sub-text would be crystal clear:

Isn’t it a pity that the sexism of Ngāpuhi is so deeply entrenched that civilised interaction between New Zealand’s two principal ethnicities has, for the moment, become impossible? We must earnestly hope that in time – and we hope that time is soon – they will decide to join us all in the modern world.

That was, after all, the essence of the message sent out by the last National Government when it decided to steer well clear of Waitangi until Ngāpuhi were prepared to meet the expectations of the New Zealand Government vis-à-vis the dignified celebration of Waitangi Day. To declare – albeit sub-texturally – that on the 6 February 1840, Ngāpuhi  did, indeed, surrender their sovereignty to the British Crown.

Within Labour’s parliamentary caucus there are plenty of MPs – and not just those holding the Maori seats – who would be extraordinarily uncomfortable with such a message being sent out by a Labour Government. For them, the steady progress being made towards the bi-cultural nation envisaged in the He Puapua Report represents the biggest and most important project in which they are ever likely to participate. They believe in te Tiriti o Waitangi, they believe in the partnership model, and they believe that kawanatanga and rangatiratanga are two distinct political concepts. Co-governance will not, however, be possible without consistent and mutual respect for the customs, practices and values of the Pakeha world and te ao Māori.

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Which is why, if Ngāpuhi insist that Jacinda accept the tradition that women do not speak on the paepae, then the Prime Minister will nominate a male colleague to speak on her behalf. Equally, however, Ngāpuhi is most unlikely to demand that of her. Stiff-necked Ngāpuhi  may be – but no one has ever called them stupid.


  1. I’m no expert in race relations but I am born and breed here and knowing Maori culture from this perspective, I would say the PM should definitely go to Waitangi if invited. To go somewhere else would be an insult, full stop. Also the PM should respect the customs and ways of the hosts however different and do not try and dictate protocol in any way. All non Maori don’t have the cultural right to make this type of change especially on a Marae. That’s my pakeha view no offence intended.

    • It is for the women of Ngapuhi to assert themselves, as women have done and will do everywhere.

  2. Nah. The ground must be made neutral to tell our stories and discuss our differences not some tic for tac whinge.

    The Treaty isn’t apart of petty domestic policy it’s apart of international law so Ngaguhi just have to come up and develop its own foreign affairs. There protocols or tikanga just has to evolve to reflect the fact that a tribe a hundred or so thousand has to compete I’m an international forum that contains 8 billion people.

    Nga Puhi and maori in general wantbto reject democracy and capitalism? Yup l, well, y’all made your bed. Now sleep in it. Y’all now have to compete as individual tribes. Yawn.

    • Good question Peter. I believe protocols must change as societies knowledge and hopefully understanding and wisdom increase IE Women getting the vote, gay rights, etc. But in this case I believe it is up to Ngāpuhi to decide when to move forward on this. Fortunately Labour have several male ministers who could easily represent the PM; but it would also be sad if Ngāpuhi denied themselves the opportunity to hear directly from her.

      • It doesn’t mater who the PM is, this is an opportunity for Nga Puhi to speak on equal terms they just have to come upto the mark quick smart.

  3. Since the PM has got nothing to say that is worth listening to -all propaganda, fabrications and outright lies- Maoridom would be wise to silence her.

    The same for any of the other clowns and saboteurs that inhabit parliament.

    “It’s time to take climate change seriously.” Climate change is this generation’s nuclear-free moment.”

    “We need growth and development.”

    “Sorry, there’s no money for children’s health or public dentistry, we spent it all on Americas Cup.”

  4. Chris that’s the wrong question. You looking at it from the colonialist point of view expecting others to change how they have done things for hundreds of years to suit your perspective. Expecting changes to happen because of democracy (we have more numbers than you) is using the colonialists tools of immigration and democracy as a weapon to denigrate the stiff necked Nga Puhi.

    Maybe you should ask “Do we have the right to demand another cultures change how they do things? We dont like it when Maori ask Pakeha to change how they do things so why is it OK for Pakeha to demand Maori change.

  5. This is a real conundrum, and as usual, Chris brings up some great points.

    Whilst I agree that Nga Puhi have the right to seek to retain their culture and traditions, it does pose the question, “when is it time to move forward?”

    I remember the calls of outrage of misogyny over male only golf clubs etc (although why in the world would anyone want to be a part of that I don’t know?) Even Augusta National now allows women.

    Do the fine line is, is it racist to point out misogyny or is misogyny allowable for certain cultures, so not to been labelled racist?

    I think I’ll sit on the fence on that one

  6. So if NZ/AO was actually governed solely by Maori does that mean that women will not be allowed to speak in any public forum?

  7. Women were second class citizens in most countries for centuries but times change and now in most they are seen as equal.
    Why is it ok for Maoridom not to change with the times .

  8. I remember, with a lot of affection and some amusement, us pakeha being dragged, some kicking and screaming, by (now) Dame Hinewehi Mohi to sing the National Anthem in Maori. Her bravery led the way to what is now embraced by us all and makes us stronger. Is this something for Ngapuhi to consider?

  9. To think that what the PM (male or female) has to say on the marae is so important that it has to be heard on the marae first is silly. Im sure all topics have been covered in the general media and the internet so speaking on the marae is a publicity stunt.

    This is a form of racism belittling another cultures practices for a publicity stunt. What has pakeha culture been asked to sacrifice to accommodate Maori. One country one people but by your rules is not working.

  10. In a society that is seeing an ever-increasing diversity of gender assuming their rightful places within it, including in positions of authority, isn’t it time to consider that some roles, especially those to which someone is elected, transcend gender. Laying aside what Ngapuhi’s attitude will be to the new Governor General, who is both female and Maori, and who speaks for the Queen, what will it be when, inevitably, we have a transgender PM, or one who otherwise defines his or her gender status? If we are sincere in affirming the equal rights of everyone, regardless of their gender, then isn’t this discussion a little shallow?

    • Well I try to be fair when I see crazy shit like sometimes I’m like we’ll is John Key or Jacinda for real on what ever topic kiwi build or merh testing or what ever. But I guess you can hopefully appreciate when there’s a false claim and then once that’s clarified yknow like what you just talked about when maori can assume the role of the coloniser or assuming a different biological gender. I don’t have an issue with the analysis I have a problem with the underlying accusations that this or that person should leas because they might commit suicide or what ever populous role. So in this instance when I talk about this issue of the disadvantaged or equalising human rights then we will have a certain set of traits / characteristics that does make them predisposed to running a nation and it will be overwhelmingly obvious that they have the right stuff to win an election and become Prime Minister.

  11. ‘Ka pu te ruha’ ‘ka hao te rangatahi’ The old net is worn out and the new net goes fishing.
    Maori feminism is the new net.
    First of all this stuff about women not being able to talk on the marae as ‘age-old Maori custom’.
    Take a look at Gilfinnan’s paintings in the 1850s and in the Whanganui area you see a woman leading a haka. My mother who was bought up in Mokau by her Taranaki relatives told me a rich history of wahine toa who took leadership roles who spoke on marae, handled weapons and navigated.
    All right this tikanga belongs to Ngapuhi – so did cannibalism and slavery once upon a time.
    Culture is not set in stone and it responds to public need.

  12. Who should speak? The Maori should speak UP! I do not care about gender, or who raises this. The Maori of this country will be totally outnumbered by new arrivals of colour by 2025. BY DESIGN.
    Call me a racist all you want for knowing how to math.
    So good luck with that, and where has the rich, fat Maori party been while they are being out bred by other of colour, oh yeah, shaking hands, greasing palms, so good luck with that. People who consider themselves allies with Maori are old fashioned, generational New Zealanders ( not just whites some Chinese and others) who will all be dead soon, so good luck with virtue singling and trying to convince new foreigners the importance of heritage and language. Maori will be as dead as the old fashioned that identified with them, a relic- how sad..
    Only destined, like the poor Native Americans, to line up at the airport with dances for new arrivals and the rich – perhaps that should be their preferred role, right? I do not think so, but that is just me and my opinion.

    • Tribalism can not produce a female maori Prime Minister, hopefully for obvious reasons but Capitalism can.

  13. So is an invitation extended to the PM to attend the Marae event,? or is she automatically part of it as it is the official NZ Waitangi celebration?
    Assuming an invitation is extended, how could the PM be invited to the event commemorating the establishment of her own nation without being allowed to speak? It would deny her position as our head of state.
    If she were not to be invited to speak it cannot be the venue for that commemoration.
    If she is not expected to speak she should not be there.
    D J S

    • The PM is not the head of State- that’s the Queen and representing her in her absence- the Governers General. Although many of the speculations on the PMs right to speak also currently apply to the GG. Whom lets face it is actually more relevant to Waitangi day.

  14. Actually Western white culture/tradition/historical norms was women didn’t get to talk – go back and see – women’s lib is not that old folks.

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