Tuku Whenua - Ngāti Whātua starts conversation on changing the date for Auckland Anniversary Day

By Marena Mane

Auckland Anniversary Day is celebrated every year on the Monday that falls closest to January 29,  which marks the day in 1840 when Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson arrived in Aotearoa at Kororāreka, Russell 

But Ngāti Whātua says a more appropriate date to celebrate Tāmaki Makaurau is September 18.

That was the day Ngāti Whātua paramount chief Apihai Te Kawau gave Hobson 3000 acres of land from Maungawhau (Mt Eden), Ōpoutūteka (Cox's Creek), Taurarua (Parnell) and Te Rerenga Oraiti (Britomart) as an act of an enduring bond between Ngāti Whatua and the Crown.

Joe Pihema, a cultural expert and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei historian says it’s a commemoration to mark the gifting of land that established Auckland City as it is today.

“Tuku Whenua is a recognition of first of all the absolute paramountcy of Apihai Te Kauwau. During his time as paramount chief of Ngāti Whātua of Tāmaki Makaurau in his thinking and vision to bring Hobson here to Tāmaki Makaurau at that time, and so Tuku Whenua is really about the acknowledgement of an agreement and understanding but also a relationship between Ngāti Whātua and the Crown.”

Pihema says rather than celebrating a date of insignificance to Tāmaki Makaurau, September 18 is a date of historical significance for all Aucklanders.

'The start of a conversation'

“Today's pōhiri is to create a formal engagement between the Crown, the council and Ngāti Whātua where we can once again re-engage in some discussions that bring some energy back to this kaupapa, and one of the kaupapa surely to be discussed today is the move in the anniversary date from January  29 here to September. 18.”

Auckland mayor Phil Goff says discussions with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei about Auckland Anniversary Day will happen in due course.

“Well, it's the start of a conversation," Goff says. "It's quite a new idea. It's a conversation that we should have, and we should listen. Ultimately, it's for the government to determine which days are the days that we commemorate. I don't know what the outcome of that conversation will be. But it's important for Ngāti Whātua that we have that conversation,” he says.

Although Goff has only three weeks until he retires as Mayor of Auckland, he reflects on his time and his relationship with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.

“As I leave this job, one of the things I will miss is that I will not spend the same time I have spent in the past six years with the aunties and the uncles who are alongside me giving me their warmth and their friendship and their support on important occasions around the city.”

Changing the date of Auckland's Anniversary from January 29 to September 18 would require a discussion before a government would accept a council and iwi recommendation for change.