Rough Waitangi weather belies peaceful day

SIMON DAY
Last updated 15:44 06/02/2014

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Despite nearly horizontal rain big crowds have enjoyed the atmosphere at the Treaty Grounds in Waitangi.

The rough weather interfered with some planned festivities and a number of events were moved inside, but it couldn't stop hundreds of people who had come from all over the world to visit the historic site from having a good time.

Six waka crews launched from the Te Tii beach in front of the lower marae, but they were unable to paddle around the point to the Treaty Grounds because of rough seas.

A three hundred strong hikoi, protesting deep sea oil drilling in Northland, that started in Cape Reinga finished its journey on the Treaty Grounds. The peaceful march spoke of the need to protect the environment and of their special relationship with it.

"We the Maori people have been the guardians of this land and we've tried our best to keep a pure and pristine landscape for everyone, the land and the sea but with mining, with drilling that's not going to happen," said Heeni Hoterene.

A couple from Christchurch were impressed by the hikoi's approach and message.

Gaynor Duff and Terry Reid are travelling around the North Island and timed their trip to Waitangi to coincide with the national day.

"People were protesting but in a dignified manner. If Maori can't have a voice here where can they?" Duff said.

"It's a special place to be today," said Reid.

The Royal Navy Big Band played inside Whare Runanga that also hosted a kapa haka performance.

People happily traversed the grounds despite the horrid conditions. Dressed in yellow full length raincoats, Vira Boessenrodt and Hannah Kling had come all the way from Germany to visit Waitangi.

Boessenrodt now lives in New Zealand, her Kiwi partner's parents live in Kerikeri, and was making her third trip to Waitangi.

"Maori culture is the only culture that NZ has. Everything else is adopted. I find it hugely important. You should know this history and cultural background. It is a colourful culture, it is a happy culture and you should acknowledge that," she said.

She was escorting her friend Kling on her first Waitangi experience, and she was undeterred by the weather.

"The rain is no problem, I come from Hamburg!" she said.

"In Germany you don't hear about the Maori culture. It is really beautiful to see."

Food stalls lined the Waitangi Sports field selling mussel fritters and a Waitangi classic, watermelon and ice cream. The rain had not put off the punters and the stalls had been busy all day.

A local fisherman had been coming for 10 years for the food and atmosphere.

"I pre ordered some hangi, because they often sell out, and I grab some paua and cream" said Jade Beard, from Russell.

And Waitangi Day never gets old for locals who show up religiously to catch up with old friends.

"Yeah man, we've done the rounds. Every year, I never miss it," said Matthew Wihongi, from Haruru Falls.

"I see all my mates I haven't seen for years. The all come from around the country."

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