It’s Waitangi Day in New Zealand, the 176th anniversary of the day when a treaty was signed at Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands, between Maori and the British government. It’s widely regarded as modern New Zealand’s founding document. And I figured out a way to make the best hourly rate ever from what the government’s planning for the original parchment.
More on that in a moment, but first here’s a history of that parchment. There are many copies of the Treaty, made at the time so it could be hawked around the country after the formal signing. But for practical purposes “the” Treaty document is the one signed on 6 February at Waitangi. It symbolises all the Treaty scrolls and – because it marks the foundation of Crown government – is the New Zealand equivalent in importance of the US Declaration of Independence. The physical scroll is the most valuable and important archival document in the country.
It’s also extremely tatty, thanks to its history. It was signed in the grounds of the house belonging to James Busby, who chucked it into a cupboard afterwards. Neither he, nor the Governor – William Hobson – bothered collecting it when they left. (At the time, the Treaty was far less important than it became.) Eventually it was re-discovered, rather worse for wear, when the house was gifted to the Crown in 1932 and renovated – as a place of national importance – for the 1940 centenary.
The scroll was then taken to Wellington where it sat in the basement of Parliament buildings, drawing the attention of rats, for nearly 30 years before it was re-re-discovered, now in very rough condition. In the late 1980s the remains ended up in Archives New Zealand.
Now – that hourly rate. It’s like this. The fragments of the scroll are still at Archives New Zealand, but its final home will be the National Library (which also holds the ‘first draft’ of the Treaty in the Busby collection, which I’ve read).
Now, I gather the cost of moving it has been budgeted at around $7 million – but the two buildings are just 195 metres apart, door to door. Now, here’s the clever bit. I figure I could carefully walk that in about 120 seconds, carrying the scroll. What’s more, I’d be prepared to do that for (say) half the figure the Department of Internal Affairs thinks it’ll cost to move the Treaty. So the taxpayer saves, I get the best hourly rate e-v-a-h ($105 million an hour, albeit for only 120 seconds of my time) and the Treaty is delivered safely to its new home. It’s not as if I’m a stranger to the staff at either place, being a historian and all that. They know who I am, and they know I’d look after the Treaty in that 120-second walk – it’s important to me, too. Hey – I’d even waive the cost of any time I had to wait at the Aitken-Murphy street pedestrian crossing, blowing the journey beyond that 120 seconds at $29,166.67 a second.
A deal, or what?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016