Sunday, March 22, 2009

Around Waitangi




Maori
Meeting House
Waitangi
New Zealand



If you travel Northland, New Zealand by RV or auto in early February, and happen to be in the Bay of Islands, you’ll find free concerts, political speeches, the New Zealand Navy firing a 21-gun salute, Maori wakas (war canoes) and 40,000 other party people squeezed into and around the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Waitangi Day is a national holiday to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between Queen Victoria’s government and some Maori tribal chiefs. It has never been ratified and they’re still trying to figure out what it means. The treaty was signed on the grounds of James Busby’s house at Waitangi February 6, 1840. A draft had been presented to the local Maori chiefs the previous day. Governor Hobson had returned to his ship anchored in the bay and expected the Maori to discuss the treaty and maybe sign it the following day. The chiefs had talked it over the previous night, didn’t have enough food to wait another day, and wanted it signed ASAP so they could get home to dinner. Hobson was rowed back to shore again, didn’t have time to dress for the occasion, and signed it in his civilian clothes just after noon.

In 1932, the run-down house of James Busby was gifted to the nation. In 1934 the first celebration was held in honor of its restoration. Kiwis always like a party and the tradition continued through the 1950's. Reluctant to add another public holiday to the calendar, they finally decided to substitute Waitangi Day for Auckland Anniversary Day.



Treaty House
Waitangi
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Photo By:


The treaty was between the Crown and Maori. Queen Elizabeth II is officially New Zealand’s Queen. She is represented by a Governor General who ratifies laws by the parliament of New Zealand. Usually, the Prime Minister is the official representing the Crown on Waitangi Day.

Fun and games often start a few days earlier. On the 5th, the dignitaries are welcomed and speeches are given by both sides. At dawn on Waitangi Day, the Royal New Zealand Navy raises the New Zealand Flag, Union Jack, and White Ensign on the flagstaff on the Treaty Grounds. During the day, there’s a church service, games, Maori cultural entertainment, concerts, wakas charging around the bay and a navy ship re-enactment of the calling ashore of Governor Hobson to sign the Treaty– not all that traditional since the officer has a little more time to dress this time. The day ends with the Royal Guard of Honour and a Beat Retreat at Ceremonial Sunset on the Treaty Grounds lawn.



Meeting House
Waitangi
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Photo By:


Even a holiday won’t please everybody. There’s often controversy. Protesters don’t seem to like this flagpole on the Treaty Grounds any better than the one near Russell. In 2004, protesters managed to hike the Maori Sovereignty Flag above the others on the flagstaff by flying it over a nearby tree. One year, a cruise ship cancelled their scheduled stop in the Bay of Islands– afraid a passenger might end up in the middle of what they believed was a re-enactment of the Musket War. Prime Minister Helen Clark also decided to visit elsewhere that year. As Waitangi day is celebrated throughout New Zealand, it wasn’t hard for her to find a more peaceful celebration. Considering the crowds, protestors, and four days of free flowing liquor, there seems to be few serious problems– don’t mess with the flags and you won’t be a guest of Her Majesty.

The best time to wander and enjoy that small spectacular park, Waitangi Treaty Grounds, is not during Waitangi Day surrounded by 40,000 booze appreciating party goers– moonshine is legal in New Zealand. Home manufacturing of hard alcohol is allowed in small quantities. Kits are available in stores. The government seems concerned you distill your alcohol safely and don’t kill yourself.



Maori
War Canoes
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Photo By

Until recently, entrance to the Treaty Grounds was free. Now, admission is $20 for two days if you’re not a Kiwi– the Maori version of sock it to the tourist. Tourist won’t complain and don’t hang around long. The tourist tax is suspended for Waitangi Day. There’s only two roads in– over the bridge from Pahia or the Puketona Road from Haruru. If you want to enter the grounds, just smile and remember your own town usually has a bed tax– just another way to squeeze dollars from travelers who must have more than you since they’re traveling and you’re not.

During the regular season-- not the silly season, those 3 or 4 days around Waitangi Day– you can find individual Maori guides to give you a tour of the grounds. You can also enjoy a musical performance in the carved Maori Meeting House. If you pay the $20 tourist tax, you can wander around the Treaty Grounds and nature trail on your own.


As War Canoes
Come In
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Photo By:


On leased land from the trust, the Waitangi Golf Club hangs out over the Bay of Islands. If you’re a golfer, stop in at the club house, enjoy a drink, and swap tee tales. Green fees are reasonably priced and visitors are welcome. Clubs, riding carts, and hand carts can be rented, You can buy most anything else in the pro shop. Even if you take the scenic course when golfing and zigzag your way along, try the Waitangi Golf Club. The price is reasonable, but you can pretend you’re a millionaire. just carry spare balls to donate to the Goddess of the Sea. This is one course you won’t forget.

There is no overnight camping on the Waitangi National Reserve. Haruru Falls Motor Inn on Puketona Rd and Haruru Falls Resort on Old Wharf Rd are reasonably priced if you’re traveling by car of RV and trying to save your Kiwi dollars for that golf course. Free overnight parking is available at Waipapa Landing a little north– and we’re heading in that direction.

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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3 comments:

Stanis said...

great! now i want to visit! have a great day!

Anonymous said...

This is really a neat blog. I've found some of the old comments on how to find a cheap car and where to stay on a budget. Maybe next year this will be more than a dream. I had no idea you could find free places to stay in a campervan. That would be a tremendous help.
Amy B.

Anonymous said...

This is such a neat blog. I searched back through the comments on how to find a cheap vehicle. Your hints on places to stay on a tight budget were helpful. I had no idea you could find free overnight parking, either. I'm already dreaming for next year.
Amy B.