Waitangi: where democracy gets strong armed and cold shouldered
by John Ansell
Marae bully standing between us and Crown car.
When I announced that I was going to Waitangi, I was warned that radical Maori would try to defeat me with ”manipulation, intimidation and control”.
I’ve certainly experienced the manipulation (or as I call it: lying) when dealing with their TV reporters.
Invariably they promise one thing and do another, or completely twist what I’ve said.
Control is what the media have when slanting a story their way.
But Waitangi 2013 was my first experience of in-your-face intimidation.
Above was the face that got in my face — twice.
Everywhere flags and posters proclaim that this is Harawira Country, where men are bullies, women are too, and prime ministers and racial equalists should be nervous.
But I don’t want to give you the wrong impression.
From what I could see, the physical Harawira influence was minimal with the absence of the Popata brothers (who last year led a march on the flag pole to tear down the New Zealand flag and replace it with the Maori sovereignty flag).
Actually, by far the majority of the people we met at Waitangi — Maori and non — were warm, friendly and hospitable.
It’s clearly only a small minority who cause the trouble.
Note the Israeli flag there. I thought the Palestinians would have been more popular among Hone’s mob than the Red Sea Pedestrians.
The Lower (Te Tii) Marae. See the red-roofed shelter at right?
That’s where Simon Day from Fairfax (above) thought he could interview me without us being molested.
I wasn’t so sure.
“In here’ll be fine,” says Simon, pointing to the marae gate.
To me, it didn’t feel that respectful, given what the members were likely to overhear me saying about matters they held dear.
But Simon and his photographer were insistent.
And so we conducted our interview on a bench inside Te Tii Marae.
After a few minutes, a large and very angry man sitting nearby decided he’d heard enough.
Of the words he said to me, only the word ‘racist’ is printable.
I got the hint. Even Simon got the hint. We continued the interview outside.
His story appeared later that day.
Simon’s photographer took some shots of me looking proud and defiant in my silver fern shirt, with a view to using them in a Sunday Star-Times feature.
Somehow the planned longer interview didn’t quite happen.
(I guess Simon and co. were too busy tailing Titewhai. Or maybe his editor wasn’t keen to give space to such controversial causes as racial equality and democracy.)
Tite-whai are we waiting??
One News’s Patrick Gower and throng waiting for Queen Harawira to win the Battle of the Hands.
John Key was kept waiting forty minutes while Hell’s Granny bullied her way into the prime prime ministerial hand-holding position – and of course, so was everyone else.
Why we indulge this former violent jailbird and her violent family, I’ll never know.
The Nats were out in force.
Not all my old friends from the good old days were this happy to see me. Welfare minister Paula Bennett, a person I don’t know, and prolific author/MP Paul Goldsmith.
There was much fawning over Finlayson, but I couldn’t get close enough to his entourage to capture it.
Former National Party HQ accountant-turned-MP Katrina Shanks.
Minister of Edu-chaos Hekia Parata (in bright blue) banters with some school students.
Mike Butler trying to look inconspicuous, with a Treatygate banner disguised as a roll of wallpaper.
He’d wisely advised me to leave the other banner — attached to long, fat conspicuous pipes — in the car.
Mike makes his move.
Loitering with intent to unfurl banner when Key arrives.
We knew if we did it sooner, we’d get it confiscated (legally or illegally).
Being studiously ignored by One News cameraman.
Being studiously ignored by 3 News cameraman.
When Key finally arrived at the lower marae, Mike and I had installed ourselves immediately behind the One News and 3 News crews and Simon Day from Fairfax, and as close as we could get to the police line.
As Key got out, we raised the Treatygate banner above our heads.
I yelled as loudly as I could — more or less directly into the media microphones — “When are you going to start running the country as a democracy, John? Tell the truth about the Treaty! One law for all!”
He looked over. The news crews didn’t.
He went through the gate. So did they.
To our surprise, ours was the only protest of any kind at Waitangi this year. But the media didn’t want to know.
We were too busy doing it to film it. They were clearly under instructions to ignore it.
Being studiously ignored by Patrick Gower.
Being studiously monitored by marae thug. Ever since evicting me from the marae, he was watching my every move.
Being studiously smirked at by Mike Butler, who knows it’s not really him I’m snapping.
The PM’s Press Chief Kevin Taylor waiting beside the PM’s Beamer while the PM is entertained by Titewhai and friends.
I’d forgotten to apply sunscreen, so by the time our 2-3 hour wait for Key to emerge from the marae was over, I really was a redneck.
A large and not-so-red neck. The marae bully, just before he turned and tore at our banner like a frenzied mako.
Size-wise, this was how he looked to me…
Mike and I differed on how to respond.
We tussled with the bully for a while. But as a landlord, Mike was triggered by memories of close encounters with similar-looking characters.
He knew the guy’s violence would only escalate into a major assault.
I, meanwhile, thought this was just what we needed if we were to get news coverage.
(The media’s obsession with a noxious octogenarian confirmed that they’re only interested in confrontation, not information. The only way we could have led was if we’d bled.)
Once the thug had prevented the Treatygate banner from being seen by the cameras as Key exited the marae, he wandered away, mission accomplished.
Next year, we’ll need reinforcements.
Two or three hours after he went in, Key emerges from Te Tii Marae.
I introduced myself to Willie Jackson. Mike asks him a curly one.
Behind is the SUV of John Tamihere, who turns up briefly, but has to dash off before Willie can properly introduce us.
Jackson’s attitude is basically, “You’re racists, but no hard feelings.” He speaks surprisingly highly of Don Brash as a gentleman.
I think Willie is the most outspoken racist in New Zealand. He says he can’t be because he’s not in a position of power.
I don’t know what he calls that radio show!
Outside the Treaty House.
See that lady behind me on the porch — the one on the left – doesn’t she look familiar?
Why yes, it’s our old Te Papa Treaty ‘Debate’ organiser, Dame Claudia Orange — with appropriate orange badge — and appropriate friend.
A naval firing squad missing Dame Claudia by miles.
A flag ceremony. I think it may have been called Beating the Retreat — which would have been apt.
A naval frigate runs aground on the Treaty House lawn.
Not far from here, Mike videoed me making my speech, as well as an impromptu narrated sweep of the Bay to show where the Treaty was drafted, translated and signed.
It was my first experience of the Waitangi commemoration. I’m pleased I went. I’d expected more trouble, and hoped for more media interest.
I guess democracy and racial equality just aren’t big enough issues compared with the momentous issue of who will hold the PM’s hand.
Thanks to Mike Butler for immediately putting up his hand to accompany me, and for paying for our motel.
Thanks to Vinny Eastwood for lending me his camera.
Thanks to the wonderful couple who put me up in Auckland on the way there and back.
And thanks to all of you who will, I hope, volunteer to come with me next year!