Waitangi hangi brings people together

Last updated 13:54 06/02/2013

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How Maori should be represented in local and national government was highlighted during Waitangi Day celebrations near Akaroa.

Sir Tipene O'Regan, a member of the Constitutional Advisory Panel, encouraged those gathered at the Onuku Marae today to talk to their family, friends and communities about their aspirations for New Zealand.

The Onuku runanga hosted the annual Ngai Tahu Treaty Festival at the marae near Akaroa.

The panel is a 12-strong independent advisory group seeking the public's view on several topics, including the role of the Treaty of Waitangi in the constitution, the positives and negatives of having a constitution written in a single document and the role of the Bill of Rights Act 1990 in the constitution.

O'Regan said the panel was not short of lawyers and politicians telling it their ideas, but it wanted the "everyday person's" ideas too.

"They [people in pubs] sit around talking about a whole host of issues and they are more than capable of discussing these things."

He said people needed to think about what they would like 2050 to be like.

People often said they wanted their rights, he said, but the question they needed to answer was how did they want their rights expressed.

O'Regan urged people to talk to each other and make submissions to the panel.

The group will report back to the Government by the end of this year.

About 500 people gathered at the marae, which included a hangi of hundreds of potatoes, 500 chicken legs, 40 pumpkins, 15 cabbages, four sheep and three pigs.

Marae chairman Pere Tainui said the hangi was a great way to celebrate and gather people together.

The "hangi team" started preparing food for about 500 people on Monday night.

A New Zealand citizenship ceremony, presided over by Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, will also be held today.

The marae's event manager for Waitangi Day, Liz Robinson, said it was a fitting time and place for 28 people to become New Zealand citizens.

"It's [Waitangi Day] about being a New Zealander."

She said the event, which was held every three years, was always peaceful and fun.

Yesterday, Hilda Rhodes and her two 3-year-old sons, Whetu and Tahu Rhodes-Hood, were at the site helping with preparations.

The boys looked on while their mother trimmed a punga near the marae before today's event.

Hilda said she had been wanting to trim the trees for days but could not find the time while looking after her boys.

At 5am today, New Zealanders began gathering at Waitangi for the traditional dawn service.

CELEBRATE TODAY

- Family day at Okains Bay on Banks Peninsula starting at 10am, with a hangi and activities.

- In Kaiapoi, a family event will be held at Trousselot Park from 10am.

- In Christchurch, a combined farmers' and artisan market to celebrate Waitangi Day will be held at Riccarton House and Bush.

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- The Press

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