It caused me to reflect on my own experience. I said when I was a child we didn't learn anything about the Treaty at school. As an adult I became ashamed at how little I knew. We didn't know how to pronounce the names or even know the meaning of the places where we grew up or in my case one of the schools I went to. Papanui (where I grew up) means a large piece of land and Waimairi (my first school) reflects listless or peaceful water by the trees – they say still waters run deep, so a good name for a school.
I went on to say that I was pleased that young people today learn about our shared history with Maori, good and bad, and not just the history of the European settlors.
The Treaty in modern times has served as the basis for resolving grievances that arose when its principles were not honoured. Every settlement of a Treaty claim begins with a statement of the facts, (gleaned from a consideration of all the evidence by the Waitangi Tribunal), followed by an apology for the wrong that has been done.
It is easy to explain to children the importance of people owning up and saying sorry when they have done wrong. In this case the wrong was done by the Crown, which lives on in the form of the Executive arm of government, which is why the apology is recorded in the Act of Parliament that confirms the settlement.
I have been reflecting on the importance of owning up and saying sorry. During my time in Parliament, the government acknowledged two non-Treaty historic wrongs and apologised for them. The first was 13 years ago when the Prime Minister apologised for the poll tax and other discriminatory practices that were applied only to Chinese migrants, many of whom originally came to mine for gold.
The second was to apologise for New Zealand's early administration of Samoa covering the influenza epidemic of 1918, the shooting of unarmed Mau protesters by New Zealand police in 1929 and the banishing of matai from their homes. The apology was delivered by the Prime Minister in Samoa on the occasion of their 40th Anniversary of Independence.
At the end of 2013 we reflected on the life of Nelson Mandela and his gift to his nation of truth and reconciliation.
It was a nation's chance for restorative justice – the chance to speak the truth, acknowledge what had been done, own up and take responsibility for personal actions, whether directed or otherwise, and to express sorrow and regret – a genuine apology for the wrongs that had been committed against others.
Recording the history – laying down the truth - and apologising for wrongdoing is at the heart of our Treaty settlement process here in New Zealand.
It is a firm foundation for building enduring relationships and creating unity and today we commemorate 176 years since the signing of that Treaty.
Gathered here, we are all people who can reflect on the significance of the Treaty and the purpose for which we are gathered today.
Each one of us or our ancestors made a journey to make Aotearoa New Zealand home - by waka, by ship or by plane - it is that journey that we all have in common and that is one of the foundation stones of our nation.
There is a story behind each of those journeys.
And it is in sharing the stories of those journeys that enables us to build understanding and enduring relationships, which together create unity. And it is the culmination of those stories that adds another chapter to our history as a nation.
That is why being here at Onuku Marae on Waitangi day is so special.
In Maori you will hear the expression tūrangawaewae literally 'a place to stand'. A place where we feel especially empowered and connected - our foundation, our place in the world, our home.
Some of you have had to give up your citizenship of your place of birth in order to take up citizenship here. Let me say that as new citizens none of you severs your ties with your home of birth; you bring your language, your culture and your history with you and you nurture them in your children.
And we, the wider community, are all enriched by your experience and you gain another home – a place to stand – as a citizen.
Ngai Tahu has a whakatauki [proverb] that says:
'Mo tatou, a, mo ka uri a muri ake nei', which means, 'For us, and our children after us.'
This resonates with the principles of citizenship sowing the seeds for future generations: creating a better future for those generations yet to come.
Ngā mihi nui me te aroha nui. Congratulations and best wishes.
Kia ora, kia kaha. Go well and be strong.
No reira tena koutou, tena koutou, tena ra tatou katoa.