Politics and people mingle at Waitangi

SIMON DAY, FLORENCE KERR AND JEREMY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2014

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On a wet and wild 174th Waitangi Day, the crowds came in their hundreds at dawn to attend the annual service on the upper marae.

Parekura Horomia and Nelson Mandela were remembered at the service, and Hone Harawira gently mocked the prime minister about his trip to South Africa.

Later in the morning a service was held to mark the 200th anniversary of the first missionaries arriving in New Zealand, gathering all the leaders of the Christian faith in the Bay of Islands.

A hikoi that started in Cape Reinga with 70 people had grown to about 300 as it peacefully made its way through the grounds.

The hikoi was promoting the need to protect the environment and Maori's special relationship with it.

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

Gaynor Duff and Terry Reid are on a North Island road trip, and timed their visit 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.

Dressed in a yellow full-length raincoat, Vira Boessenrodt, said she loved being among her adopted culture.

"It is a colourful culture, it is a happy culture and you should acknowledge that," the German-born Boessenrodt said.

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. 

WAITANGI ABOUT UNITY

Waitangi Day means family and unity to people who attended celebrations as well as the launch of the Waipa District's 150th anniversary at Lake Karapiro.

Mark and Di Davies and their two children attended the Waipa District Council-organised celebrations and were thrilled to celebrate their first Waitangi Day.

The family, who moved to Cambridge from Britain three weeks ago, described New Zealand's national day as "exquisite".

"We know it's a treaty that the Maori people signed with the whites so there wasn't a repeat of what happened with the Aborigines and Red Indians," Di Davies said.

"We want to learn about the Maori culture, it's very beautiful."

Misa Teomatavui and his family, from Te Awamutu, arrived in New Zealand from Samoa nine years ago.

Teomatavui said the day was about commemorating the Treaty of Waitangi but also spending quality time with his family.

For Waipa resident Matt Robinson, Waitangi Day is about unity.

"Waitangi for me means bringing together both cultures as one."

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The celebrations at Lake Karapiro began at 10am and continued through to 8pm. Council events co-ordinator Benjamin Hemi said more than 3000 people attended the celebrations, which included rippa rugby, football, sandcastle building, dog agility and BMX riding.

The evening concert saw performances from local bands including 100 Proof, a band of Waipa District Council staff who are the 2012 Waikato inter-council Battle of the Bands winners.

Hemi said the day was about the community. "One is to celebrate Waitangi Day, and the other is to showcase that we in Waipa are one community, coming together and celebrating that unity." 

- Fairfax Media

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