Published on : Saturday, February 16, 2013
Come February and the whole of New Zealand gets ready to welcome and celebrate each their national day. Each Kiwi community has its own unique local way of celebrating New Zealand’s national day ‘Waitangi Day’ on February 6.
Auckland – Waitangi Day Festival
Auckland will celebrate with two big Waitangi Day events – featuring music, Māori food, and art – that will take place in a South Auckland park and beside the beach at Bastion Point, Orakei, in the city .
Top Kiwi musicians Dave Dobbyn, Katchafire, 1814, Good Shirt and Che Fu will be on the programme at the Bastion Point Festival, along with local artists participating in a special Waitangi Day exhibition. Bastion Point is a majestic location looking across the Waitemata Harbour to Rangitoto Island.
Further south, the Toi o Manukau Waitangi Day Family Celebrations will include an exciting mix of live music, arts and crafts and free children’s activities. This event aims to raise awareness and understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi / the Treaty through sharing arts, crafts, music and food.
Waikato – Kawhia Kai Festival
In the week leading up to Waitangi Day, just south of Auckland in the Hamilton Waikato region, a huge traditional Māori food festival will draw thousands of eager foodies looking for an authentic culinary experience.
Kāwhia Kai Festival, acknowledged by Lonely Planet as one of the top Māori attractions in New Zealand, is a full celebration of the indigenous culture with particular focus on native foods.
Locals call the coastal town of Kāwhia ‘kai food heaven’ because of the plentiful supplies of seafood and wild game, and festival-goers feast on wild pork, a wide array of New Zealand shellfish as well as mud snails.
Each year more than 2500 kono / traditional flax baskets are specially woven to serve up portions of delicious hangi kai which has been cooked in a series of gigantic underground ovens – often required to feed more than 10,000 visitors.
Kāwhia, a coastal town in the central North Island of New Zealand, is the spiritual home of the Māori Tainui tribe and the resting place of their waka / ceremonial canoe.
Wellington – waterfront celebrations
Wellington’s Waitangi Day celebrations ‘Te Ra o Waitangi: a Celebration of Waitangi Day’ will be centred on the waterfront near the striking Wharewaka / canoe house and events will take place in several waterfront locations.
A family and community theme runs through the programme celebrating the nation and the capital’s cultural diversity. Activities will include music, stalls, delicious kiwiana and Maori-themed kai, and lots of interactive activities for the whole family. It finishes with an outdoor screening of the classic Kiwi movie Boy.
The city will be abuzz with the thousands of rugby fans in town for the annual NZ International Sevens Tournament.
Christchurch – Waitangi Day market
Christchurch is planning a big combined farmers’ and artisan market to celebrate Waitangi Day in the grounds of Riccarton House and Bush with a programme that includes live music, great coffee, a barbeque and other amazing food, and local crafts.
On nearby Banks Peninsula, at historic Okains Bay, the tiny local village turns out to celebrate with a Māori hangi, a ceremonial Māori waka / canoe outing on the river, traditional games and family activities. There are usually about 3000 people in the bay for the day.
The stars for the day are two ancient wooden waka. Usually housed in the Okains Bay Museum, the huge three-ton craft make an impressive sight as they are paddled up the Opara Stream to the landing area.
Apart from the waka, the museum holds an extensive collection of valuable Māori taonga / treasures – including smaller waka-titi which were used for fishing and eeling. Other treasures include weapons of war, Māori cloaks and practical elements of everyday Māori life.
The museum – which opened in 1977 – is part of an historic local precinct comprising the shop, church, library and school dating from the 1870s.
Background: Waitangi Day
February 6 marks the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – New Zealand’s founding document. Waitangi Day was first officially commemorated in 1934, and has been a public holiday since 1974.
Official celebrations at Waitangi commence at the Te Tii marae, where political dignitaries are welcomed onto the marae to hear speeches from the local iwi / tribe. These speeches often deal with the issues of the day, and vigorous and robust debate occurs.
Since Waitangi Day is also Bob Marley’s birthday, reggae music is especially popular at concerts.