How New Zealanders marked national day

10:32 pm on 6 February 2013

New Zealanders have celebrated Waitangi Day with events throughout the country.

Official celebrations took place where New Zealand's founding document was signed at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands in 1840 but many more events were staged.

Auckland

The Auckland region hosted some of the biggest events outside the Waitangi celebrations, with tens of thousands attending.

The biggest was in South Auckland and featured acts such as Maisey Rika and Aaradhna.

Another event, the Waitangi Day Festival, was held in Bastion Point and hosted acts such as Dave Dobbyn and the reggae group, Katchafire.

Thousands were expected at Bastion Point, or Takaparawhau, a historic location occupied by protesters and Ngati Whatua o Orakei in the late 1970s when the Government wanted to develop the land.

The festival is now in its fifth year. On Orakei marae, kaumatua Hohepa Haaka (also known as Joe Hawke), who led the occupation, told guests on Wednesday the land was being used for festivities and the ownership title being restored to iwi finally made the day worth celebrating.

Auckland mayor Len Brown said Waitangi Day is not only a significant day for Aotearoa but Auckland as well.

"This is the first time a Waitangi celebration has been held up here on the marae. It's always been in Ohaku Bay, and that sense of the history and a beautiful way to celebrate it, continues to resonate around the city."

Governor-General Lieutenant-General Sir Jerry Mateparae addressed a function at Government House in Auckland and hosted a citizenship ceremony on Wednesday afternoon.

Other events also took place at Flatbush, Papakura, Manurewa, Pukekohe and Henderson.

Hawke's Bay

In Hawke's Bay, cool and overcast weather didn't put off large crowds from attending celebrations at the Regional Sports Park in Hastings and adjacent to the Clive River.

The focus at the sports park was on entertainment, kapa haka competitions, and games for adults and children.

Celebrations next to the river included a re-enactment of early settlers arriving in the region in cutters rowed by sea scouts, waka rides, the signing of a treaty of peace and understanding, musical entertainment and dozens of food and craft stalls.

The events began with the arrival of a hikoi of about 40 people waving New Zealand and Te Tino Rangatiratanga flags, who walked about 6km along the highway from Waipatu marae near Hastings.

Group leader and kaumatua Jerry Hapuku said it is always a privilege to take part in the hikoi. He said Waitangi Day is always very special for his family as it was his ancestor Te Hapuku who was one of three Maori chiefs in Hawke's Bay who signed the Treaty on behalf of Ngati Kahunugu.

Bay of Plenty and Waikato

In Mount Maunganui, about 500 people attended a dawn service. A community service including cultural performances and speeches was held on the steps of Mount Drury on Marine Parade from 6.30am.

The event was started in the late 1970s by Maori elders and members of the Tauranga Moana District Maori Council, and up until last year was held on the top of Mauao.

An open day was held at Rotorua's Whakarewarewa thermal village, where culture from the Americas was on display alongside traditional Maori kapa haka performances.

In Hamilton, a ceremony at Civic Square featured a powhiri (welcome), an address by mayor Julie Hardaker and a performance by The Tones of Aotearoa.

Wellington region

The Festival of the Elements, one of the biggest events in the country, was held at Porirua, near Wellington The festival has been running since 1992 and organisers expected 30,000 people to attend.

Te Ra o Waitangi on the Wellington waterfront included music and cultural displays, followed by an outdoor movie screening of New Zealand film Boy.

South Island festival at Akaroa

In the South Island, Ngai Tahu's formal Waitangi Day celebrations were at Onuku Marae at Akaroa near Christchurch, with about 500 people turning out.

The Ngai Tahui celebrations alternate between the three locations where chieftains originally signed the Treaty - at Te Rau Aroha Marae near Bluff, Otakou Marae near Dunedin, and Onuku Marae on Banks Peninsula.

Guests and VIPs this year were joined by 28 foreign nationals whom Christchurch mayor Bob Parker swore in as New Zealanders.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, who was among the guests, thought having a citizenship ceremony in Canterbury on Waitangi Day was a "'wonderful idea".

Mrs Turia says it should become a permanent fixture.

The co-chair of the Constitutional Advisory Panel and Ngai Tahu kaumatua, Sir Tipene O'Regan, gave a keynote speech on the first stage of the New Zealand Constitution review process and the future role of the Treaty of Waitangi will play in post-settlement New Zealand.

Sir Tipene was a lead negotiator for Ngai Tahu in achieving settlement in 1998 with the Crown on its Treaty claim and said it has allowed iwi to move out of a cycle of claim and grievance to an attitude of celebration and hope.