New dawn for Waitangi

By Sam Boyer

1 comment

This morning's sunrise welcomed in a new era of Mount Maunganui Waitangi Day services with celebrations moving this year to Mt Drury from the traditional site atop Mauao.

The ceremony was moved to Hopukiore (Mt Drury) after concerns were raised about the sustainability of using Mauao but the change of venue didn't deter about 250 people attending today's celebration.

Last year, heavy rains caused the cancellation of Waitangi Day celebrations at Mauao. And with extensive repair works to repair to the landmark continuing, the Tauranga Moana organising committee and Mauao trustees felt the move to Hopukiore would give Mauao the much needed time to heal.

Neil Te Kani, Ngai Tukairangi chair and this year's master of ceremonies, said the change of venue was the right option, both to preserve Mauao and to give the Waitangi Day celebrations a fresh angle.

"It was mainly because we had some slips. It was decided by the committee to give it time to heal ... but this is a pretty impressive venue itself, Hopukiore.

"I think the change refreshes the thing and the site of it allows more people to come," he said.

The new site was a logical substitute because, like Mauao, Hopukiore is a sacred place for Maori.

"It used to be an old pa site and it's got caves dotted around we used for burial sites. In later times it was used for British ammunition and then later as a carving school," Mr Te Kani said.

Mayor Stuart Crosby agreed the new venue was a ready-made alternative to Mauao.

"There were reasons for it, it needed time to recover ... [but] this is perfect, it's nice and comfortable for people.

"It's another of our great sites," he said. "I like it. Not that I didn't mind walking up The Mount at 5.30am."

He said after the grounding of the Rena, Mt Drury had then also been used as a community gathering.

"We had a service here for the Rena with all the combined services.

"So this is like the second time the site has been used for the community to come together."

Local Simon Madgwick, who has been attending Waitangi Day celebrations for at least 30 years across the country, said the new site was more than adequate.

"[Waitangi Day] has been a part of my personal tradition for as long as I can remember. I think in the context of the times it [the venue change] is fine. It's another significant historical site."

And he said it was easier for people to attend this year too, compared with climbing Mauao. There's kind of no excuse this morning.

"We can appreciate the environment without the effort."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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