E te Matua Pihopa, e nga Rangatira, me Te Whakaminenga, tena koutou katoa.
Haere mai tatau i tenei ra i roto i te Kotahitanga, me te Hohoutanga o te Rongo.
Ina tetahi kī, a ratau mā, Tui, tui, tuia mai tatau.
I thank the Kaikarakia, Pae Arahi, Kaikaranga and taumata who have welcomed us here today.
David and I are very pleased to be here to mark 160 years since this flagstaff was erected as a symbol of northern Māori commitment to our partnership under Te Tiriti.
Nations define themselves by their stories, and the events we recall today are significant moments in the history of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
When Hone Heke repeatedly cut down the previous flagstaff here, in 1844 and 1845, he was sending a forceful message about his disillusion with the Treaty he had signed just a few years before.
Twelve years after the Northern War, when the flagstaff was replaced, at their own cost, by Northern Māori, it indicated their desire to both stand as equal partners – and renew relationships with the Crown.
Today, with this gathering, we affirm the aspirations expressed in the name of this flagstaff: Te Whakakōtahitanga-o-Ngā-Iwi-e-Rua – Unity Between Two Peoples.
At the time, the Crown did not formally recognise the rangatiras’ peace-making efforts, and the Governor, Colonel Sir Thomas Robert Gore Browne, did not attend the ceremony for the new flagstaff, despite being in the Bay of Islands at the time.
One hundred and sixty years later, as the most recent successor of Governor Gore Browne, I come here with a strong sense of attending to unfinished business. Better late than never!
I welcome this opportunity to acknowledge the reconciliation and unity embodied in this flagstaff, and acknowledge its symbolic importance in our history.
The years may not have always been kind to Te Whakakōtahitanga, but it has endured, along with the aspirations of the tupuna who erected it.
Today we have acknowledged the vision of Te Ruki and Maihi Kawiti and the commitment and determination of Northern Māori leaders to build positive, enduring relationships in Aotearoa, for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
Today’s ceremony foreshadows the commemorations that will take place next year to mark the 250th anniversary of the first meetings of Māori and Europeans in Aotearoa/New Zealand, following the arrival of Captain Cook and Tupaia in 1769.
The national commemorations, under the umbrella of Tuia – Encounters 250 will provide opportunities to pause and reflect on our dual heritage and our history of migration and settlement.
It will be a time to remember the individuals and events that inspired us and helped shape the country that we live in today.
It will be a time to take stock of who we have become, and the kind of New Zealand that we aspire to leave for our descendants.
The actions of hapū and individuals at this place have a place in our national narrative, and affirm the strength to be gained when we work together and embrace our diversity.