On February 6th we rented a car with Toucan and drove up to the Bay of Islands to join the celebration of Waitangi Day, the anniversary of the signing in of the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of modern New Zealand. It was a dreary, miserable day but we were determined to enjoy the celebration.
As we walked toward the Treaty Grounds we first saw this enormous waka, or traditional canoe. From http://media.newzealand.com/en/events/celebrating-new-zealands-waitangi-day/
Ngatokimatawhaorua, one of the world’s largest Māori ceremonial waka (war canoe), sits on the grounds at Waitangi. The 70-year-old waka was refurbished and relaunched for the 2010 celebrations.
Each February, Ngatokimatawhaorua must be prepared for its Waitangi Day outing prior to the big event. Made from massive trunks of New Zealand’s giant kauri trees, the gigantic waka – which weighs an incredible six tonne when dry – must first be moved by human force across the Treaty grounds and down to the sea. It is then moored in the water for up to two days allowing the wood to swell and become airtight, thus doubling the weight.
Carried out and blessed by members of the local iwi / Māori tribe, this is a tradition that happens only once a year to celebrate Waitangi Day. The enormous wooden vessel, with room for 80 paddlers and 55 passengers, is an impressive sight both on land and on the water.
When all the paddlers disembarked and assembled on the beach we were treated to a series of hakas, the traditional war cries. Our Aussie friends told us each movement or cry is signifant; we just appreciated the spectacle.
The media were out in full force and Bruce and Di were corralled by a radio reporter for their impressions.
There was food, crafts, community services and music throughout the treaty grounds.
We eventually made our way through the drizzle to the carved meeting house, a gorgeous example of Maori art built in 1940. The treaty was signed on the rounds nearby.
As we left the meeting house we heard that a protest march would be arriving soon so we sat down to wait. A large gathering of mostly Maori were declaring opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in song and speeches, all in Maori. There was a liberal use of the middle finger salute throughout, so we got that they’re against it.
By this time the drizzle was turning into rain and given that we’d sampled a fair amount of food and music, we trudged back through the crowds to our car on the outskirts of town. I’m sorry the weather didn’t cooperate more, but it seems we’re the only ones who minded.