HUNDREDS of families have marked the 173rd anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in a festive celebration at New Zealand’s Bay of Islands.
Families, locals and tourists gathered at the treaty grounds and at Te Tii Marae in Waitangi on Wednesday.
The atmosphere has been upbeat and peaceful, with people enjoying picnics, wandering the market stalls or just soaking up the sun.
The crowds have been treated to kapa haka performances, music and entertainment from the Royal New Zealand Navy band, as well as a display by the Royal New Zealand Air Force Red Checkers.
A 21-gun salute was fired at midday from a navy vessel anchored in the bay.
Previous years’ events have attracted protest and disorder, but it’s been relatively trouble-free in 2013.
Taka Hei, Tai Tokerau District Maori Wardens Association chairwoman, says a non-violent, hands-off message has been pushed at this year’s celebrations.
“We didn’t want to have a repeat of what happened last year and we certainly didn’t have that,” she said.
Protesters in 2012 forced Prime Minister John Key to cut short his speech on Te Tii Marae.
“This Waitangi, I think what it’s shown is the flip side to what we’re actually all about. We’re not about confrontation, we’re about manaaki (support) and trying to compromise in tight situations when we need to,” Ms Hei said.
Donna Hohaia from Kaitaia, who had never been to Waitangi before, says she was surprised by the “festival” atmosphere at the treaty grounds.
Wai Coyne came to Waitangi from Whangarei with her partner and two young children.
“We come out every Waitangi Day pretty much, just to support the kaupapa and have a good family day out,” she told NZ Newswire.
Numerous events took place elsewhere in New Zealand, including a music festival at Bastion Point in Auckland, the Festival of the Elements celebrating cultural diversity in Porirua, and the Ngai Tahu Treaty Festival at Onuku Marae on Banks Peninsula.