Waitangi Day commemorated at Te Rau Aroha Marae

An estimated 500 people from throughout Murihiku, Ōtākou and around Aotearoa have today commemorated Waitangi Day at Te Rau Aroha Marae in Awarua Bluff.

Manuhiri – including Deputy Chief of Navy Commodore Melissa Ross (on behalf of the Governor General), Minister of Housing Hon Megan Woods, Minister of Agriculture Hon Damien O’Connor, mayors, and other community leaders – were welcomed on to the marae, which hosts the Ngāi Tahu Treaty Festival every third year. Te Rau Aroha Marae holds historical significance as it was one of three places Ngāi Tahu tūpuna signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

Awarua Ūpoko Tā Tipene O’Regan said: “Our commemorations today at Awarua have been full of extraordinary variety, but also genuinely felt and expressed hope – a hope that we, Ngāi Tahu and the Crown, will have a more informed and better-quality relationship in our future.”

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Deputy Kaiwhakahaere Matapura Ellison said it was great to be able to bring together whānau and the community for such an important event.

“Waitangi Day is a chance for all New Zealanders to gather and reflect. This year, in particular, we are grateful to be able to bring together our people kanohi ki te kanohi near the site at which our tīpuna signed the Treaty, and commemorate this significant day for our iwi, and for all of Aotearoa,” he said.

“It’s been a wonderful day full of kōrero, mātauranga, and aroha and I want to mihi Awarua for hosting such a brilliant event.”

Awarua rūnanga representative Gail Thompson said: “We are proud to have brought everyone together – both whānau, the wider community and beyond – to commemorate this historical day for Ngāi Tahu and all of Aotearoa.

“To have such a great turnout today shows the important role Te Tiriti plays in the lives of all New Zealanders and the key part every one of us plays in building a better partnership for the future.”

In his kōrero, keynote speaker Michael Stevens, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu alternate representative for Awarua, told the crowd that for the Treaty to have a future we (all New Zealanders) must increase our understanding of its past.

Other highlights from the day, which began with a rousing pōwhiri, included an A Long Time Coming: The story of Ngāi Tahu’s Treaty Settlement Negotiations with the Crown panel discussion with Dr Martin Fisher, Dr Te Maire Tau, Emeritus Professor David Williams, and Tā Tipene; a presentation on the Ngāi Tahu freshwater statement of claim; and a Regenerate Murihiku discussion with Tā Tipene, Terry Nicholas, Michael Skerrett, and Aimee Kaio, as well as a visit Waituna Lagoon.