Waitangi Day often stirs controversy at the place where it was signed, but hundreds celebrated it with love at Waikawa Marae.
About 100 visitors were welcomed on to the marae with a powhiri yesterday morning and were treated to a brief history of its wharenui, meeting house, and iwi Te Atiawa before enjoying a hangi and kapa haka performances.
Waitangi Day marks the anniversary of the first signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on February 6, 1840.
Waikawa Marae trustee Rita Powick welcomed the visitors to the marae.
"I'm part of Waikawa Marae just like you are now, too.
"Wherever you are from or wherever you go, you will always be welcome here."
She also told them about the Maori legends depicted by carvings on the walls, such as Maui who fished up the North Island.
"That's how you know the South Island is the mainland," she said with a laugh.
Visitor Peter Morice said the experience was a chance to see what New Zealand could be like without common negative knee-jerk reactions to government Treaty settlements for iwi.
"It's beautiful. It's people coming together and celebrating the country. Apart from the historical significance, it just gives people a chance to mix and mingle."
The day often draws controversy over the Government's management of Maori affairs, which flares up when politicians visit Ngapuhi Te Tii Marae in Northland.
Earlier this week, a disagreement between who would escort Prime Minister John Key on to the marae erupted when Ngapuhi elder Titewhai Harawira refused to relinquish the role after Ngapuhi trustees chose Ani Taurua to replace her. However, the feud was settled when both agreed to share the role yesterday morning.
A Ngapuhi iwi member at Waikawa Marae said she felt that Waitangi Day should be about New Zealand celebrating as "one people".
Televised images of aggression on past Waitangi Days captured only heated moments centred at Te Tii marae and did not represent family-focused celebrations that occurred around the country every year, she said.
The best way to honour the Treaty was "just like this", she said, and gestured towards groups of people chatting on the lawn in front on the Waikawa Marae wharenui.
Te Atiawa iwi member Rose Clayton, 83, lives next to the marae and said Waitangi Day was a special chance to share the culture.
Originally from Taranaki, Ms Clayton moved to Waikawa to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather, Tamati Tahuaroa, also known as Thomas Watson.
Ms Clayton's daughter, Stephanie Clayton, moved back to the area from Australia and said she felt like she belonged when she was on the marae.
One of Waikawa Marae's kaikaranga, Bev Maata-Hart, said it was always a pleasure to welcome visitors to the marae and it was nice to see it full of people.
She led the guests inside during the morning's powhiri and entertained them later in the day with the Te Rerenga o Te Ra kapa haka group.
We asked people at the Brayshaw Park Heritage Day in Blenheim, and at Waikawa Marae near Picton, their thoughts about the way Waitangi Day is celebrated in New Zealand.
Keith Noble, Rapaura, retired: I think it is important that the Treaty of Waitangi is acknowledged, but also that the whole country have a day off to enjoy our combined history. I am happy with how it is currently celebrated.
Vera Setz-Deuchars, Springlands, audiologist: I think it should be more of a family day and not so political. All the protests at Waitangi every year are a little undignified. I want to see it become a New Zealand day without all the political stuff. It is a day for everyone.
Michael Perrett, Redwoodtown, accountant: I think Waitangi Day should become New Zealand Day. At the moment it can be quite segregated and give the impression that it is all about Maori. I think if we changed the name, it would be far more inclusive.
Rose Clayton, Waikawa, retired: I enjoyed celebrating the day at Waikawa Marae and felt this year was better than last because more nationalities were visiting. Waitangi Day is a special day. It helps bring Maori and Europeans together. We are one people, that's how I feel.
Stephanie Clayton, Waikawa: I enjoyed spending the day with my mother and getting in touch with my Maori heritage (at Waikawa Marae) after living in Australia. The celebrations at the marae were a perfect example of people enjoying themselves without the need for any politics.
Peter Morice, Blenheim, columnist: I thoroughly enjoyed the experience at Waikawa. It's nice to celebrate ourselves on our national day - and the mussel fritters are ka pai. Waitangi Day could be firmly focused on the future now that the majority of treaty grievances have been settled. The best way to celebrate the day is with friends and family.
- The Marlborough Express
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