All New Zealanders paddling the same waka emerged as a theme at Matapihi's chalking for Waitangi Day event at Hungahungatoroa Marae.

Groups that came and went during the morning included a family of recent arrivals from South Africa.

Event organiser Lillybeth Melmoth said the family drew themselves sitting in a waka chalked on the marae carpark.

The symbolism was not lost on the Matapihi make-up artist and face painter because it perfectly summed up the importance of Waitangi Day.

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Melmoth said Maori and pakeha living together in partnership allowed others to come to Aotearoa to live. If the two peoples were in strife, migrants would choose not to come here.

''It's only that partnership that allows us to have a place where other people want to come.''

She said it all traced back to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, so she decided at the last minute to organise the mini event at the marae.

Although designed for Matapihi locals, she said it drew others wanting to lay down art based on the Treaty and kotahitanga (unity).

''Chalk is an easy way to make your mark.''

Children expressed themselves in chalk as music drifted across the carpark, with Melmoth calling breaks for book readings and spot-prize giveaways, courtesy of Paper Plus Tauranga.

Part of the initiative for yesterday was her own happy childhood memories of chalking characters on footpaths. She also wanted to give something back to the area where she had lived in for 11 years.

Melmoth said she would love to set up chalking areas around Tauranga where permanent outlines of a well-known children's book characters were laid down on pavements for people to decorate with chalk.

''They would be public places where people could come to at any time.''

Hungahungatoroa (Whakahinga) Marae
Location: Hungahungatoroa Rd, Matapihi.
Principal hapu: Ngai Tukairangi
Tribal collective: Ngai Te Rangi
Waka: Mataatua waka