Waitangi Day preparations well underway

By Raniera Harrison

It's full steam ahead for the Waitangi National Trust and preparations are well underway for the 179th commemorations of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi

"These lands are chiefly, the initiatives taking place on them are also of that standard. We are aiming to maintain that Waitangi celebrations this year are of that caliber," says the chair of the Waitangi National Trust, Pita Tipene.

On February 3 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to be welcomed onto Ōtamatea Marae for the first time, the marae urupā is the resting place of former Labour MP Paraire Paikea, and his son Tapihana - a site of significance for Labour's Northland based māori MPs.

A spokesperson from the Prime Ministers office told Te Kāea, Ardern will be present at Waitangi this year, however, would not confirm any finer details for specific engagements until late next week.

Tipene adds, "it is important that discussion is wide and far-reaching when the Prime Minister arrives."

Meanwhile on February 4 an investiture ceremony for the renowned traditional navigator, Hekenukumai Busby will take place at Waitangi.

He was appointed a Knight Companion of the Order of Merit in last years Queen's Birthday Honours.

"The Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy will present our kaumātua [Hekenukumai Busby] with his knighthood at Waitangi. It's something we are all hugely looking forward to celebrating his large portfolio of works over the many years," says Tipene.

Last year, protest groups continued to gather at Waitangi but the atmosphere was not as heated as previous years.

The chair of the Waitangi National Trust is working to clean up the image of Waitangi Day celebrations.

Tipene adds the Waitangi National Trust is working with trustees of Te Tii Marae Waitangi to ensure all smooth coordination of all events.

On the 5th of February, there will be more ceremonial welcomes for Ardern, the Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy, and Chief Justice Sian Elias. Tipene says māuri stones will also be unveiled for the new 28th Māori Battalion Museum in Waitangi.

Tipene says more details for Waitangi Day celebrations will be released in the coming weeks.