In 1840 representatives of the British Crown and 500 Maori Chiefs signed what is now recognised as New Zealand’s founding document. The Treaty of Waitangi was named after the location where the historic event took place - a house owned by a Scotsman named James Busby in Waitangi on the Bay of Islands, around 230 kilometres north of Auckland.
The day was first commemorated in 1934 and today many New Zealand towns and cities will mark the occasion.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
The formal events begin at 5am with the traditional dawn service in the Te Whare Runanga, a carved meeting house. Throughout the day, the crowds will be entertained at various venues around the grounds. There will be around 100 stalls selling art, craft and a large variety of food. The kids will love the bouncy castles, the racing cars and touch rugby games. At the flagstaff area the Royal New Zealand Navy Band will perform at midday followed by the traditional 21-gun salute. Also keep an eye out for the 20 waka, Māori canoes that will be on the water including the Ngātokimatawhaorua, New Zealand’s largest ceremonial war canoe with room for 80 paddlers and 55 passengers.
The celebrations in Auckland are focused on the Barry Curtis Park where the country’s top musicians including Aaradhna, David Dallas, Sons of Zion, Ria Hall, Seth Haapu, Majic and Pao Pao Pao will perform. At the city’s birthplace, Okahu Bay, where in 1841 Māori chiefs invited Governor Hobson to create the city, yachts, waka canoes and modern vessels will be greeted by a traditional welcome ceremony.
Wellington’s waterfront area comes alive with music from Whiri Tū Akā, a five piece Māori a-capella group, the legendary reggae band Herbs, DJ Ayesha, Vanessa Stacey and Lisa Tomlins. There will also be craft activities and kai stalls. While you’re in the capital, it’s worth exploring the Te Papa Museum, an interactive space that houses unique cultural, social and natural history treasures relevant to the development of Aotearoa.
Rotorua’s living Maori Village, Whakarewarewa hosts an event called Whakanuia, which means to acknowledge, promote and celebrate. Visitors can explore the village, which is set on an active geothermal area, enjoy the entertainment and sample the delicious cuisine. You can also learn about Māori culture, medicine, local legends and history.
Just outside Christchurch lies the beautiful Okains Bay. While this is a scenic part of the country to visit at any time, on Waitangi Day it bursts to life with traditional welcomes, horse buggy rides, bread making demonstrations in a clay oven and cocksfoot threshing. Throughout the day, it’s also worth checking out the displays in the museum. These celebrations at Okains Bay are the largest and longest on the South Island – this year will be the 38th year for the commemoration.