The image of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern dressed in black apron; preparing barbecue breakfast for the people up north at the Waitangi Day celebrations is going to remain in public memory for a long time.
It was Ms Ardern’s charm offensive at its best, which probably kept away all normal expressions of rage, anger and protests that we have come to associate with the Waitangi Day celebrations, in recent times.
Lest it may offend someone, and with due respect to all those who either have stirred-up emotions on Waitangi Day, or chose to express their stirred-up emotions for reasons unrelated to Waitangi Day, a rage-industry has evolved around this important day, which is also New Zealand’s national day.
Be it Maori activists, who have struggled to come to terms with the terms of reference of the Treaty of Waitangi and the division of control on land, power, and resources of the country between Pakehas and Maoris or be it unionists, anti-capitalist or anti-globalisation protestors, the event has seen them all. In fact, on many occasions Maori activists have been in a minority in expressing dissent.
In past years, politicians have been gagged, or been hit by people slinging mud and sex toys. On the last two occasions former Prime Ministers Sir John Key and Bill English had not returned to the Waitangi Day celebrations for not being given a chance to speak on the occasion.
Earlier Prime Minister Helen Clark had stayed away from celebrations in 2000 and even shifting official commemorations from Waitangi to Wellington in 2001.
The memories associated with New Zealand’s national day are often associated with expression of rage, rather than a celebration of unity in diversity, in the fast emerging multi-cultural face of the country.
It is important to note that despite all of this, the celebrations in the past have been several notches better than national day celebrations of many other English-speaking immigrant-countries of the West.
However, there is no escaping from the fact that a kind of rage-industry has existed around our National Day celebrations in the past.
Indeed, this year was a welcome departure with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s personal charm offensive in full swing.
In fact, Ms Ardern quietly became the first Prime Minister to attend a Waitangi dawn service with no protest and the first female Prime Minister to speak during the powhiri.
To her credit the Prime Minister was camping for full five days in the up-north meeting with Iwi leaders, visiting local marae and schools and meeting with a number community groups.
The gesture was welcomed and appreciated by one and all - the locals and the visitors - that especially descended at the town of Waitangi Dawn services.
Thousands have gathered at Waitangi – where the historic treaty between British settlers and Maori Kings was first signed in 1840 – first to celebrate a dawn service held under moonlight, then gathering by a lone bagpiper, who played as the sun rose over the Bay of Islands.
Earlier, at the powhiri on Monday an offer was made to the Prime Minister and her partner Clarke Gayford, for considering burying their baby's placenta at the Treaty grounds, to signal the winds of change blowing at Waitangi, probably under the spell of Ms Ardern’s magic.
However, it was Prime Minister’s barbecue breakfast that stole the show and won many hearts.
Ms Ardern’s deceptively charming confession to the crowd, “I said, Nah we're having bacon butties," was received by loud cheers from many.
"We didn't want walls … we think this is a way to show in a really physical way that our job is service," the Prime Minister further asserted.
Indeed, Ms Ardern’s charm which refuses to die even after hundred days in the office has done the magic in keeping the symbolic expression of rage away from Waitangi Day celebrations, at least for this year.
However, this has not happened because of addressing the causes precipitating the dissent, which is a reminder, if not a concern that the path to reconciliation is as easy as may be presumed.
Probably, this explains National Party Leader Bill English’s timely reminder that the new government may not enjoy such a charmed ride in future years.