Meg Jones: The Treaty and Tauranga… then and now

It was a great pleasure to attend a special evening with Supreme Court judge Tā (Sir) Joe Williams (Ngāti Pūkenga, Waitaha, Tapuika) in Tauranga last week. Tā Joe (or Sergio as he prefers) was a guest of Taonga Tauranga Heritage Bay of Plenty, providing a kōrero about the Treaty of Waitangi and its relevance to Tauranga – then and now.

Tā Joe had an audience of almost 200 enthralled for a full hour. From simply walking through the local iwi signatories on the Treaty (as well as those that didn’t and their reasons why) to wrapping context around other local events at the time and explaining the nuances of the English and Māori words.

He outlined the simple truth of the effects of colonisation on Māori as well as Pākehā. In particular, the devastating impact on our beautiful te reo Māori language (and in some cases, Māori actually being forced to suppress their DNA) and leading to disenfranchised communities right across Aotearoa.

My takeaway from the event is one of hope for our future. We have collectively moved forward and while it may still be tiny steps, they are genuine steps in the right direction, as demonstrated by the large volumes of Pākehā enrolled in te reo Māori courses, the acknowledgement of the impact of colonisation on Māori and many more.

This is not going to be a quick process – I’m far from any kind of expert but even I can see that it will take a generation (and more) to change mindsets. I take heart that the rhetoric is changing across board rooms, in classrooms and in our homes.

Kia pai ō rā (have a good day)

The event was recorded and will be posted on the Taonga Tauranga Heritage Bay of Plenty Facebook page.