Call for Waikato to have its own holiday

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 26/01/2013

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A call for Waikato to break away from Auckland and have its own anniversary day has reignited and even gained backing from some political heavy-weights.

The idea was floated by National MP Louise Upston in 2010 and its backers say Hamilton's coming 150th birthday bash is the perfect time to cut the provincial apron strings and have our own day-off.

"We have got the 150th commemoration of the naming of Hamilton coming up in 2014 and there are a number of anniversaries right across the Waikato," Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said.

"For me that is something we could work towards for that year."

Regions that celebrate their own anniversary day include Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, South Canterbury and Southland and Ms Hardaker says it is time we had our own.

"We are the mighty Waikato; we are a great region and we can stand up and celebrate our own special day with our own name."

Mrs Upston said any change "sits very clearly with local government" and central government approval is not required.

"Getting agreement at the local government level is the key. Local council need to decide yes they want to do it and agree on the date and I will continue to support it."

Public interest has waned since she hosted a public forum three years ago and progressing it would require a significant event to focus on.

"There has to be some area of commonality that you could anchor this conversation to, and I think the 150-year celebration could well be the vehicle."

Waikato Regional Council chairman Peter Buckley wants to celebrate the identity of Waikato and said "I think at some stage we should have our own anniversary day".

He is in favour of breaking the "long period between June and October" and Waikato Chamber of Commerce chief Sandra Perry agrees, saying the idea is "worth consideration.

"There's such a big gap between Queen's Birthday and Labour Day where there are no public holidays, and it's the middle of winter; there's hardly any sunlight and it can be quite challenging," Mrs Perry said.

But Matamata-Piako District Mayor Hugh Vercoe is less enthusiastic about the idea saying New Zealand should have one main anniversary holiday while Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson thinks it could get "horribly complicated."

Wiremu Puke, spokesman for Nga Mana Toopu o Kirikiriroa, said the country has moved on from the settler era when the Auckland province stretched from Cape Reinga to the Central Plateau and it is time to forge ahead and celebrate the Waikato region.

"It is really about identity and what sets us apart from other regions," he said. "Here is the ability for this region to develop its own contemporary event without the baggage of the past."

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- Waikato Times

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