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Momentum with new PM after positive five days at Waitangi

Opinion Piece

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took her historic Waitangi Day speech a step further, putting down what will be seen as a blueprint for her Government in what proved to be a public relations triumph.

While she alluded to it on the campaign trial, her message is really one of generational change and hope for the future. And in setting high expectations, she has also set herself and the Government a huge challenge.

Helped by the wise move to the Upper Marae instead of the much more fractious Te Tii, Ardern was able to take full advantage of a whole new atmosphere at Waitangi.

The embarrassments heaped on other, mainly National, politicians in the past were absent apart from one minor protest.

A lot of this could be put down to Ardern’s decision to spend five days in the north, and also the strong personal skills she exhibits which are already at the level of those previously shown by John Key.

Her presence contrasted with the decision of Opposition leader Bill English to be as far away as geographically possible in Bluff, leaving Steven Joyce to lead the National team.

It was a plus that all the politicians came on to the marae together, increasing the atmosphere of reconciliation and togetherness which the Treaty is supposed to engender.

The Treaty and its observance will continue to be the subject of major debate in the future, which Ardern to an extent acknowledged. While most big settlements have been concluded, with the notable exception of the hosts Ngapuhi, many issues remain to be resolved.

The continued support of Maori is considered to be essential if Labour is to head the government again after the 2020 election. Maori have put all their eggs in the Labour basket, and will expect rewards.

But all that is for the future. Jacinda Ardern has set down the goals for her government and also added that she will come back to Waitangi and wants to be held accountable. At the moment, the momentum is all hers.