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MIL OSI – Source: New Zealand Government – Release/Statement

Headline: He Tohu Commemorative Stamp Launch, Grand Hall, Parliament

Tēnā koutou katoa

I would like to welcome you all here to celebrate the launch of three New Zealand Post stamps commemorating the He Tohu exhibition.

I would especially like to acknowledge:

  • Jade Chang; LeBron Tuala-Fata; Kees Strickland; and Nicola Warlock – the four young New Zealanders who are the face of these stamps;
  • Jane Taylor, Chair of the New Zealand Post Board;
  • members of the He Tohu Iwi Leader Partner Group who are here tonight. Working with you over the past three years has been an extraordinary experience and I have learned a lot;
  • Tā Tipene O’Regan of Ngāi Tahu; and
  • Pita Paraone, Member of Parliament and Chair of the Waitangi National Trust.

Each of these stamps commemorates one of the three taonga that make up the core of He Tohu, which opens to the public on Saturday over the road at the National Library of New Zealand.

As you will probably know, the three He Tohu documents are:

  • He Whakaputanga, the 1835 Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of the New Zealand;
  • the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi; and
  • the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition.

These three taonga will have pride of place at the centre of
He Tohu, and will be supported by an interactive learning experience.

It will give New Zealanders, especially our younger generation, the chance to learn about the past of these documents and make connections to their relevance and importance today.

Many visitors will also be able to make connections between the signatories of these documents and their own families.

It is especially relevant, then, that New Zealand Post have agreed to release commemorative stamps for He Tohu.

This is because, by their very nature, stamps signify connection.

Sending a letter is an act of one person connecting with another.

They are – like the three taonga in the exhibition – often much more than just marks on paper.

They can contain knowledge and convey decisions, feelings and thoughts.

A great example is the Women’s Suffrage Petition.

Between late 1892 and mid-1893, sheets of the Women’s Suffrage Petition were dispatched all around the country for signatures to be gathered.

As you might know, the Petition is made up of over 500 individual sheets which were signed in various parts of the country.

The signed sheets were mailed back to Kate Sheppard in Christchurch – they would have been sent through New Zealand Post’s predecessor, the Post and Telegraph Department.

In Christchurch, the sheets were glued into one long roll, wrapped around a broom handle.

The full petition was then brought here to Wellington to be presented to Parliament.

I am told that back in 1893, letters weren’t usually sent in envelopes – they were folded and a stamp directly affixed to the back.

This means that the Petition still has some postage stamps and post marks on it, albeit on the reverse side of what will be visible in He Tohu.

I have been shown photos of some of these, complete with post marks, stamps and addresses – it is quite something.

I was interested to see that Kate Sheppard’s surname was spelled in a number of different ways on different sheets and that the stamps had Queen Victoria on them.

You can see one of these sheets in the images behind me today – this one sent from Mrs Strang in Invercargill in July 1893.

This sheet – number 541 – was one of the last petition sheets to be received.

Of course, the other two He Tohu taonga have made their own journeys over the years.

The sheets of the Treaty of Waitangi visited many places around the country in order to be signed – there is a great animation in He Tohu that shows these complex journeys.

Visitors will also be able to learn about where the taonga have been in the many years since they were signed.

I hope that He Tohu, and the stamps that represent the exhibition, are able to facilitate many more connections being made in the future.