If you’ve never been to Waitangi on Waitangi Day then you’d be forgiven for thinking the day is filled with politicians and protest. But while politicians do attend, and protest does happen, there’s more to the event than the headlines tell. So here’s five things you can do at Waitangi during the week-long event.
1) Shop, eat, and stroll through the market stalls as the kids enjoy rides
There are three sites with stalls but the biggest is the one on the Sports Field. Food and drink, merchandise and crafts – it’s all here. There’s even free rides and activities for tamariki, such as bouncy castles, bungy rides, inflatable slides, jeep, car and train rides.
2) Marvel at the waka flotilla
Throughout the week you’re likely to see waka crews prepping on the shore and on the water, but the main event is on Waitangi Day itself when they come together as a fleet for a mass paddle around the bay. There’s a lot of ceremony that happens on the shore in front of Te Tii Marae too, including karanga, karakia and haka. It’s an experience not to be missed.
3) Engage in discussion at the Waitangi Forum Tent
This one isn’t entirely political-free depending on the session, but it’s totally worth venturing into if you’re looking to learn and find a meaningful way of spending time at Waitangi. There is a range of speakers and panels on topics to do with history, culture, the environment, and yes, politics.
4) Relax and enjoy the entertainment
There are a few stages located around the place for performances and presentations. This year LADI6 is headlining the main stage on the Upper Treaty Grounds, and the lineup includes Hātea Kapa Haka, The Harmonic Resonators, opera singer Kawiti Waetford and popular local band NORIZIN. You and the whānau can take a picnic and enjoy the sweet sounds in an incredibly scenic environment.
5) Wander the Treaty grounds
This place is steeped in history, both Māori and colonial, and you would be remiss not to take the opportunity to explore the area. The Treaty Grounds has the beautifully carved Te Whare Rūnanga, and the Treaty House, home to the official representative of the British Government in colonial times. There’s also the Waitangi flagstaff which marks the spot where the treaty was first signed. The ceremonial waka Ngātokimatawhaorua is also housed on site. Then there is Te Tii Marae and Te Tou Rangatira, the place where the Treaty was discussed by rangatira before the signing. For a complete tour, you could even jump on a ferry to visit Kororāreka, or Russell, and Maiki Hill where Hone Heke repeatedly cut down the flagpole that flew the British flag over the town.
So there is a lot to do – eat, shop, relax, learn, engage – that if you’ve ever thought of making the pilgrimage to the north but have always been deterred by the political posturing, have no fear. You can have a Waitangi Day in Waitangi without the politics.
tamariki – children
karanga – ceremonial call
karakia – prayers and chants
rangatira – chief(s), leader(s)