John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Idea of Tauranga Day draws support

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Awanui Black.
Awanui Black.

A public holiday that swaps Auckland Anniversary Day with a meaningful celebration of the birth of Tauranga has generated a lot of interest among city leaders.

The idea has been floated by Awanui Black who sees April as the defining month in the area's history, starting with two days when local chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 and April 29, 1864, when Maori forces repelled colonial forces at the Battle of Gate Pa.

"We have the opportunity to have something that belongs to us," Mr Black said.

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said it was a really interesting idea. "It would be great to have a public day Tauranga people can be proud of and identify with."

Mr Black, a prominent iwi leader, did not want to replace Waitangi Day as a day that signified the birth of a nation, saying February 6 deserved its own mana.

But he believed swapping Auckland Anniversary Day for a public holiday on April 29 for Tauranga and surrounding areas deserved consideration.

Read more: What's on in the Bay this Waitangi weekend

"If you are going to claim your own identity, how do you do that in a way that is meaningful to the place you live? I'm not saying it is what we should do, I'm saying it is a good idea if we want to mark something far more important to us than Auckland Anniversary Day."

Mr Black said Waitangi Day had always been celebrated with a friendly spirit in Tauranga, even though the treaty was not signed in Tauranga Moana until early April at Otumoetai and Maungatapu.

He wanted a multi-cultural celebration. "I think there is a willingness but at the end of the day, it would need champions from across the community."

Although the city was founded for the wrong reasons from a Maori perspective, Mr Black said history was full of settlements born out of conflict - in Tauranga's case the Battle of Gate Pa led to the subsequent defeat of Maori forces at Te Ranga and huge land confiscations.

"If we can acknowledge these things and build bridges properly, we will have a far brighter future," he said.

Mr Black said Tauranga Day would be positive whereas Waitangi Day was not always seen as positive because of the headlines it generated. And the Bay had moved on from the days when it was part of the Auckland Province abolished in 1876.

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller questioned whether Tauranga and the Western Bay was large enough to warrant its own day off.

The advantage of Auckland Anniversary Day was that it encompassed everything north of Taupo and created certainty for schools, businesses and holiday makers.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the pros and cons were worthy of discussion because it would be more relevant if the city had its own public day.

Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson would like to see a day celebrating the mixture of cultures in the Bay.

It could be a community gathering celebrated on the closest weekend rather than a public holiday. "It's worth thinking about."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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