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Listening at Waitangi


Ko Te Tiriti o Waitangi tōku kawenata 
I tipu ake ahau i raro i te maru o ngā Remutaka maunga ki te taha o Te Awakairangi 
Ko Te Ati-Awa te mana whenua 
Kei Te Whanganui-a-Tara ahau e noho ana 
Ko hāhi mihinare te whare karakia  
Ko New Zealand Church Missionary Society te rōpu 
Ko Ngāti Pākehā te iwi 
Ko Anna Smart tōku ingoa 

The Treaty of Waitangi is my covenant  
I grew up under the shadow of the Remutaka mountains beside the Awakairangi river 
Te Ati-Awa are the people with authority over the land 
I live in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington)  
The Anglican Church is the church I belong to  
I am part of the New Zealand Church Missionary Society 
I am Pākehā  
My name is Anna Smart 

This Waitangi Day in 2021 I found myself curling my toes in the grass of the whenua at Waitangi, washing dishes in the wharekai, and swimming in the beautiful moana at Paihia beach. Unlike most other Waitangi days in my lifetime, I spent this February 6 immersed in the story of our nation, and what a privilege that was.  

Listening and Serving  

Our history as the New Zealand Church Missionary Society is deeply entwined with the history of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and so our identity as an organisation is shaped by the events at Waitangi, both past and present. For this reason, NZCMS sent a small group of staff and friends of NZCMS to join the Karuwhā Trust in their Hīkoi ki Waitangi 2021, to learn more about our collective history. Ngā mihi nui Karuwhā Trust for your mahi. For myself and many others, the central objective of this hīkoi was to go to Waitangi to listen and serve.  

The weekend was spent visiting significant historical locations related to Te Tiriti o Waitangi  - alongside tangata whenua and assisted by qualified historical narrators -, serving with hau kainga at Te Tii marae, swimming in warm Northland waters, observing public commemorations, asking plenty of hard questions and learning new things.  

In my reflections of the weekend, I am reminded of Mary and Martha’s story in Luke 10:38-42.  Like Mary’s part in the story, this week was about listening. In this particular story, Jesus emphasises Mary’s choice to sit at his feet and listen, and I’d like to think that when Martha was called out of her work to listen to Jesus, after some time they’d all get up and start working together. Much like this story, it is essential that we in Aotearoa take the time to listen to our partners under Te Tiriti o Waitangi so that we might be able to work together well.  

In this beautiful nation of Aotearoa, we have a complex history that colours our landscape and shapes the people that have walked, currently walk, and will walk in this land. For so long, this story has predominately been told through a Pākehā perspective, in a way that dodges the uncomfortable parts, the gruesome parts, and some of the really profound parts. In this moment of information accessibility, the ability to borrow books and use Google, we must extend our horizons of learning. Especially for those of us who identify as Pākehā, we must learn how to listen. As we have conversations in the church in Aotearoa about local mission and the decolonisation of mission, we must place Te Tiriti o Waitanig, te kawenata tapu - the sacred covenant - at the centre of these discussions.  

Choosing Powerlessness 

I’d like to speak directly to my Pākehā readers now Something I have been reflecting on while I’ve been in Northland is the importance of choosing powerlessness as a wāhine Pākehā. As a Pākehā living in a Pākehā dominated society, I, by virtue of my skin colour and my whakapapa, have more privileges and power than my Māori friends. When I enter a te ao Māori context, it is essential that I put down that power, choose the place of powerlessness and of humble learning and service. This choosing of powerlessness and of choosing interdependence with others is the way of Jesus.  

By placing myself into this place of powerlessness and interdependence I can begin to put my worldview aside and try and step into that of another. I begin to see things I wouldn’t otherwise. I certainly don’t get it right all the time. I choose self-preservation over vulnerability, and there is grace for that. It is, after all, a process of learning. But to walk towards reconciliation, us Pākehā need to learn to put down our power and pick up a spirit of repentance, of humility. I’ve learned these things while ironing tablecloths with hau kainga. While watching the sunrise above the flagstaff on the Treaty Grounds. While eating watermelon under the Northland sun.  

From this stance of listening and serving, we are able to enter friendship. When we have a foundation of relationship, we can walk towards honouring Te Tiriti, towards reconciliation, towards partnership with each other. When we dance this delicate dance of friendship, not shying away from that which renders us vulnerable or afraid, we journey closer to one another. Brené Brown, an American professor, said “…it is hard to hate anyone close up”, and to that I say, lean in 

Our time with the Karuwhā Trust, being so generously hosted by Te Tii marae, and serving alongside hau kainga, was the utmost privilege. For me, it felt like a look into the possibility of being reconciled to one another. I have been left with more questions than I have answers, and that is okay. There are many things I am reflecting on and will be writing about in coming weeks, but for now, I leave you with the challenge of deep listening. As Te Rautini sing in their song Te Ao Marama; “Listen to the land, listen to the spirit, listen to the breath, listen to the life we share.”  

Anna writes regularly in her blog which you can check out here.




Anna Smart, NZCMS Short Term Intern





2 thoughts on “Listening at Waitangi

  1. Than you Anna. You have nailed it. It is so important for us,as Pakeha, to listen to the Maori version of Te Tiriti.

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