4 Feb 2012

Governor-General asked to declare allegiance

10:18 pm on 4 February 2012

New Zealand's Governor-General has been asked to declare whether he represents the Queen and interests of the Maori people or the Government during his inaugural visit to Waitangi.

Every year, New Zealand marks its national day and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi at the township in Northland on 6 January in 1840.

On Saturday morning, Lieutenant-General Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Mateparae made their way onto the Waitangi marae escorted by kuia (elder) Titewhai Harawira.

The vice-regal party included Chief Justice Sian Elias, Justice Joe Williams, the chair of the Waitangi Tribunal Judge Wilson Isaac and a large contingent of army and navy personnel.


Warriors and waka paddlers performed a challenge and haka and the welcome in the whare, or meeting house, was warm and civil.

Elders from the Ngapuhi tribe are concerned at what they see as the Government's disregard for Maori as Treaty partner, following the sale of the Crafar farms, the downsizing of the Maori Affairs Ministry, Te Puni Kokiri, and the plan for partial sales of state-owned assets.

Kaumatua Kingi Taurua challenged the Governor-General to say if he stood for the Queen and the interests of the Maori people, or for the interests of what he called a "settler government".

Sir Jerry did not address the question directly, but replied that 41 chiefs signed the Treaty in 1840 - one on the Queen's orders - and 40 by choice.

Ngapuhi kaumatua said afterwards they felt Sir Jerry had deftly side-stepped the challenge, but the question goes to the heart of Maori disquiet over bi-cultural relations and the status of the Treaty.