Waitangi Day and a hangi at the Wharewaka in Wellington

The 6th of February – Waitangi Day – is New Zealand’s most important national holiday and I have a  hangi at the Wharewaka. 

It’s the day our founding document the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. For many of us it’s a day of celebration, and commemoration. (read more I’ve written about the day here)

The day  started  for me at 4 o’clock in the morning when I went down to the Wellington waterfront to watch a hangi being prepared on the edge of Whairepo (stingray Lagoon,  in front of the Wharewaka.

However, for the men cooking the hangi it had started at 2 a.m. I hadn’t been there very long when to the dismay of all , the automatic  sprinkler system to water the lawns began pumping out litres of water – not good when you have a fire going.

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The fire of course is essential for cooking the food and it became scramble to protect the flames which were heating, not volcanic stones as my husband used, but pieces of iron which are also great heat conductors.

Of course a great hangi master saved the fire and the food emerged after 3 hours – a great 10am breakfast for me.


Here are my photos which tell the story from my arrival until I had the food at about 10 a.m.

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Some background about this building

Wharewaka o Poneke opened on Waitangi Day 2011 – and I was there – and during the dawn opening, Wellington’s Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, said

“It’s a building you couldn’t see anywhere else in the world. Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika have delivered Wellington a wonderful asset that reminds us all of their place in the city – their history on the waterfront and their future as well.”

Here are some photos I took at the opening – just a few months after I moved to Wellington, NZ

Sir Ngatata Love, chairman of the Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust, said he was excited to see the Wharewaka open. “This has been planned since the 1990s and I’m delighted we’re now able to bring waka culture to Wellington’s waterfront.”

The outside of the building is based on a korowai (cloak), which symbolises mana and prestige, and mirrors the traditional sails of the waka fleet.

Finally, those of you who follow me on social know the wharewaka  and lagoon is where my U3A group meets for our Monday morning walks.

Waitangi Day: Bay of Islands, Northland – a must attend event

Tomorrow is Waitangi Day – 6th February – and all over the New Zealand people will be celebrating and, or, commemorating the day our country began its journey of two nations learning to live together. And, no doubt, for some it will be just a great public holiday.

Waitangi Day Christchurch
Wharewaka and Whairepo Lagoon. Wellington

I will be joining other Wellingtonians on our waterfront at the Wharewaka, beside the Whairepo (stingray) Lagoon – for a hangi: a tasty meal cooked in the traditional Māori way, underground. If you follow my blogs, or Facebook, you will know that’s also where I meet friends every Monday morning to leave for a walk and coffee. I plan on being there in time to take photos of the process and will blog about it in a day or so.

I urge every Kiwi (New Zealander) to attend Waitangi Day AT Waitangi at least once in their life it’s a fabulous event. (Just make sure you book your accommodation – whether it’s a hotel of campsite – early!)

A protest button I wore

I hear some people say it’s all protests and activism: my experience from spending 4 days in the Bay of Islands proved this is a false view that’s perpetuated by lazy, mainstream media. Of course, there are protests – a we are a healthy democracy – and I too have been involved in Treaty protests in the past. The Treaty is a Fraud, and Stop Treaty Celebrations we chanted as we complained that our founding document was not being honoured. Things have changed tremendously over the past years and I now love to celebrate our heritage; have we got it right, do we still have much to do? Absolutely. Are we on the right track? Most certainly.

During my only time at Waitangi, Paihia, on our national day, I saw families, tourists, and kiwi all having a great time. It was a combo of ceremony; navy, politicians, music; opera, jazz, blues, soul, Māori Cultural shows, stalls, sideshows, and of course the gathering of the ceremonial waka.

Some background: the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is the place where Māori chiefs, in 1840, first signed their agreement with the British Crown – Te Tiriti of Waitangi. In the grounds are the historic Treaty House, a carved meeting-house and the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe and of course panoramic views of the Bay of Islands.

Te Whare Runanga

Te Whare Rūnanga (the House of Assembly) is a carved meeting-house facing the Treaty House, the two buildings symbolising the partnership agreed between Māori and the British Crown and the house opened on 6 February 1940 – 100 years after the first signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Te Whare Runanga

Another important feature is the flagstaff which marks the spot where the Treaty was first signed on 6 February 1840. (it then travelled much of New Zealand and many other Chiefs signed on behalf of their Iwi. The flags that fly are the three official flags that New Zealand has had since 1834 – the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand (from 1834), the Union Jack (from 1840) and the New Zealand flag (from 1902).

Here are few photos I took a few years ago – and one day I will go there again for this unique day.

NOTE: For more information about Northland check the official tourism website and to hire a rental car in Auckland I can recommend the company I use: Rental Cars NZ.

Maori tour ‘tour of a lifetime’ says National Geographic Traveler

Hone Mihaka, of Taia­mai Tours says, “To classify ourselves as New Zealanders denies our cultural identity as Maori. Being Maori is our point of difference.”

Hone, of the Ngapuhi iwi (tribe) is given a lot of “mana” ( respect and prestige) and I was happy to be hosted at his marae in February  as I checked out  what the National Geographic Traveler named as one the 50 Tours of  Lifetime 2011 –pretty  good for a new venture!

Their interactive Waka experience is a unique insight into ancient customs, rituals and traditions: and once a year visitors from around the world not only learn how to paddle the ceremonial waka tau (war canoe) but also become part of the annual national commemorations that acknowledge ( and sometimes protest about) the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – NZ’s founding document – on the 6th February 1840.

“Great – now let’s try that again then we will head for Pihia and our waka”‘ says Hone

This year there were guests from the USA, France, The Netherlands, Canada, and Germany staying with the  extended Mihaka family at their traditional home near Lake Omapare, and I watched as they went through the last of their training in paddle techniques, waka manoeuvres, chants and haka in preparation for the next days’ celebration – out on the bay with all the other waka.  These photos show some of the day, with more stories to come after they feature in print media.

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As Hone says “I’m Ngapuhi, and I offer my world. Only in Tai Tokerau can you get a unique, authentic Ngapuhi experience.”

Tai Tokerau stretches from the Bay of Islands on Northlands’ east coast over to Hokianga on the west coast – which is where my Ngapuhi husband came from: Ngapuhi is New Zealand’s largest indigenous tribe of 100,000 – made up of over 100 smaller independent Hapu (clans).

If you are unable to take part in the Waitangi Day events, you are still able to paddle a waka with them – up to Haruru Falls .. see their website or find Taiamai Tours on Facebook

In Lonely Planets‘ book “Happy” on  page 105 it says ” Be Proud of your Roots. Embrace your heritage to better understand yourself.” The page is about Maori and their haka and Taiamai Tours embody this ‘secret to happiness’ and offer it to others.

As traveller, I believe  learning about other cultures helps us understand and embrace our own no matter where we’re from.

“This edited extract is from Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World © Lonely Planet 2011. RRP: $25. lonelyplanet.com.”

Maori waka (war canoes) focus on Waitangi Day

As well as the NZ Navy, ceremonial waka  (war canoes) gather in the harbour every year (6th February) to commemorate the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. (NZ’s founding document betweem the Crown and Maori tribes) These waka are often from many parts of New Zealand and the men who carve them are well-respected.

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For a chance to learn to paddle one of these canoes (in the Bay of Islands, Northland) contact Hone Mihaka of Taiamai Heritage Journeys

Waitangi Day celebrations at Waitangi .. a must-go-to for all Kiwi

Attending Waitangi Day celebrations AT Waitangi is a must-go-to  event for all Kiwi.

I hear some people say it’s all protests and activism: my experience from spending 4 days in the Bay of Island’s earlier this year shows this is a false view that unfortunately is perpetuated by the mainstream news media.

What I observed was families, tourists, kiwis, groups, and just people all having a great time.  It was a combo of ceremony; navy, politicians, music; opera, jazz, blues, soul, Maori Cultural shows, stalls, side shows, and of course the gathering of the ceremonial waka. These events happen over four sites (which border each other) Treaty Grounds, Waitangi National Reserve, Te Tii Marae grounds, and the beach across the road – Te Ti Bay.

And as for the proof-of-a-democracy protests: if you want to avoid them, don’t be on the one lane bridge at 130pm on the 6th Feb. For me – wished I had been able to get some photos of the annual protests … but I was too busy watching the waka and missed them all!

Here are just 75 photos (from the 5000 I took in my 2 weeks in Northland) that just give a little taste of the fabulous day  – I recommend you book your accommodation early.

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See some Utube re Waitangi here

Birthplace of a nation: New Zealand

One of the motivators for my 2012 road trip around Northland was to revisit the birthplace of New Zealand – the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – and in particular be there for our annual public holiday (Waitangi Day, 6th Feb.) that commemorates the 1840 event: but more of the celebrations in a later bog.

The house is not only historic and beautiful, but is set in lush native bush and has guided tours and cultural performances night and day. It’s been some years since I visited and my memory of walking up a grassy slope to a white house alone on the top of the small rise, and with the flagpole, is now presenting a different picture: the house and flag pole are still there but the (mostly) native trees have grown, and it was through this bush and forest, with its birdsong, I now walked.

There are many guided tours and activities including “Introducing the Birthplace of our Nation” through to a fun workshop with our native flax, and “Living with Nature’ which explores New Zealand’s native plants and trees and their relationship to Maori legend.

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Naturally, there are Maori cultural performances during the day, and in the evening,  a twilight show which can include a buffet dinner.

New Zealand residents have free access to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, while visitors’ tickets last 2 consecutive days.  Open all year (closed Christmas Day) from 9am to 5pm, the off-peak season is from April to October so check the website for actual dates each year.

NOTE: For more information about Northland check the official tourism website and to hire a rental car in Auckland I can recommend the company I use:  Rental Cars NZ.

For more about New Zealand and our ‘treaty’ and national day, see our history encyclopedia website Te Ara

Northland road trip: along the Twin Coast Discovery Highway

In February most of my great road trip in Northland was on the Twin Coast Discovery Highway

It leads you from Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, to the far north, and is the ideal road adventure – I used a rental car and started from Auckland airport and valued the support and information I got from Destination Northland.

The Twin Coast Discovery Highway  traces both coasts to Cape Reinga and back. The east coast has fabulous white sand beaches, while the west coast has fewer people, wilder beaches and our giant kauri trees. All of which I’m writing about in individual blog (so sign up for them – top right on this page J) as I retrace my steps, but thought an overview would be useful too. Whatever you do,

you have a camera – you will fill it up just as I did – especially with postcard views of white or golden sand.

There are any  kinds of water experiences too – from dolphin trips, sightseeing tours diving, snorkelling or fishing – or as I did, parasailing over the Bay of Islands on New Zealand’s highest parasail.

Northland is often called ‘the birthplace of the nation’ as our founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was first signed here between the Maori tribes and the British in 1840 ad make sure you visit ‘the duke’ , in Russell,  which has New Zealand’s first licence as a bar – and is still hosting people in its rooms and dining areas.

On the other coast are 85% of New Zealand’s kauri trees – most in the magnificent Waipoua Forest and which also has Tane Mahuta, New Zealand’s largest kauri, then down to Dargaville on the Wairoa river and where all out kumara (sweet potato) come from then  onto  Matakohe,an engaging museum explains the life and times of the kauri tree.

This is the briefest of a thumbnail sketch  .. , with lots more to come:  One of the things I was surprised about ‘up north’ was how much there is to do – I did heaps but there were many more places that I didn’t see and many things I didn’t get to do!

Feel free to add your suggestions (in the comments) about ‘must dos’ you have found in New Zealand’s Northland.

New Zealand’s national day … the birth of our nation

Waitangi Day was fabulous  – the only problem, how to spread myself around all that was happening! I never saw the protest march and didn’t see a lot of what was happening in and on Te Tii Marae, or the at the Waitangi Treaty grounds, Its like there are four of five major happenings all at the same time: I was concentrated on the canoes from Taiamai!
Like other things I have been seeing and doing here in Northland, that too will be a big story or two (or three!) and for now you will have to just wait while i digest it and let the story come.

What I  (stupidly) didn’t expect, was to find that the Marae I was welcomed onto was of course able to whakapapa (genealogy) back to my husbands parents, grandparents and ancestors. It’s been 29-years since my husband died, in Christchurch,  and was buried up here – and it felt good to be welcomed as family.  Here are few photos ( I took over 900 today) from the past 24-hours and once again, more will follow.

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Northland, New Zealand–what a great road trip (water too)

The Rock Overnight cruise was fabulous: it’s not often the same place that has your accommodation, also takes you hiking, fishing, canoeing, target shooting, snorkelling, has a skipper who lulls you to sleep with great piano playing, another plays the guitar, and Keiko who cooks tasty porridge and is full of good humour al all times – the list goes on. they were all great and I would recommend them wholeheartedly!

The Rock just maybe the BEST YHA in the world! (FYI I’m a gold-card member of that organisation)

I have just booked into The Pickled Parrot in Paihia – a small personal BBH hostel set in subtropical gardens and tonight I’m off to the  Waitangi Treaty Grounds the annual free music concert which sets off the public holiday that marks the commemoration of the signing of New Zealand’s founding document – signed between the Maori tribes and the then Queen of England in 1840


The Rock at anchor at Roberton Island

Many thanks to Destination Northland for helping with my itinerary and Rental Cars New Zealand for the vehicle for this road trip:

I can recommend both as car and the travel plans are working perfectly Smile

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