You have probably heard of days like Independence Day, Bastille Day and Australia Day – celebrations of National Pride and history, but have you heard of Waitangi Day?
Waitangi Day is celebrated all throughout New Zealand each year on February the 6th, and in several countries around the world with large communities of Kiwis.
For those of you who are travelling in your motorhome hire around New Zealand, you will get to see that Waitangi Day, alongside Christmas and New Years, is the most important day in the Kiwi calendar.
What is Waitangi Day about?
This special day celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, by British colonists and Maori chiefs in 1840.
The treaty is considered New Zealand’s founding document, making New Zealand part of the British Empire and guaranteeing Maoris the same rights as their British counterparts, as well as rights to their land.
Please note: Waitangi Day is a day that needs to be treated with respect from outsiders. Waitangi day is not only a day of celebration for the birth of a modern nation, but of also a day that highlights the negative legacy of colonialism. A legacy that all New Zealanders are slowly learning to heal from and moving forward together.
The best way to participate is to get involved, show respect and listen to the answers to the questions you may ask.
Kiwis are a friendly bunch and are always happy to explain whats going on and why, if you show genuine interest in the history of Waitangi Day you will get a fulfilling insight into the history of our beautiful country and the people of the land
Traditional Ceremonies & Performances in Waitangi
At sunrise on the 6th of February, you can see official celebrations in Waitangi with the raising of the flag on the Treaty Grounds, followed by a church service and Maori kapa haka (song and dance) performances.
If you are here for this event, you will also get to see a re-enactment of the signing of the treaty. Beginning with the “governor” coming ashore from his ship, and an extraordinary presentation of waka (canoes) rowed by Maori men in traditional dress with traditional chants echoing in the winds.
On the grounds you can also see the impressively carved meetinghouse, the world’s largest war canoe – carved with intricate designs—and experience a traditional hangi feast.
If you are looking for a truly original experience, making a special trip up to the Bay of Islands is well worth it.
This is a truly exceptional experience; one you won’t have anywhere else in the world.
Waitangi Day around New Zealand:
For those travelling in a motorhome hire through other parts of the country at the time, there will generally be a lot of fun things to do, from community picnics and barbecues, to festivals and concerts.
There are plenty of opportunities to really dive into the culture too, with many of the maraes (traditional Maori greeting houses) open up on this day for local communities to learn more about traditional Maori culture.
As the day approaches and you know where you will be parking the van, have a look online for activities and festivities going on nearby.
Here are a few we know of:
- Auckland – Family event at Bastion Point with live entertainment, kite flying and kai/Maori food, set against the stunning Waitemata Harbour.
- Wellington – Along the city’s waterfront lies Waitangi Park where all the action happens.
Witness traditional Maori culture with a selection of activities including a waka fleet exhibition, Te Aro Pā walking tours, weaving, waka building, Māori myths and the Māori Performing Arts known as Kapa Haka.
- Rotorua – Waitangi Day is celebrated among the geothermal landscape of Rotorua in a traditional Māori village.
The event held here is called ‘Whakanuia’ and it means ‘acknowledging, promoting and celebrating’. You can be sure to find food, dancing and lots of storytelling.
- Christchurch – Head on over to Okains Bay for the official commemorations of Waitangi Day.
This bay is the spot where the Treaty was signed in the South Island and where you’ll find family friendly activities plus an insight into New Zealand’s past.
- One Love Festival – Waitangi Day happens to coincide with Bob Marley’s birthday, who has been a bit of an icon with Kiwis for generations now.
In honour of his memory and in celebration of Waitangi Day, everyone gets together at One Love Festival to share the love, celebrate peace and unity, listen to some great reggae beats and throw back a couple of beers. In 2017, it will be held on the 4th and 5th of February.
You can stay onsite with your campervan for an additional fee or choose to stay at a nearby campground.