'Sad' end for Waitangi Day festival

By Patrick O'Sullivan

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Jim and Marie Edwards (front) are pictured with Lovey Edwards (background, left), Phillipa Tibbles and Tom Mulligan in front of the Nga Tukemata waka on Clive River yesterday. Jim and Marie hope the Waitangi Day Family Festival at Clive's Farndon Park will continue. Photo / Warren Buckland
Jim and Marie Edwards (front) are pictured with Lovey Edwards (background, left), Phillipa Tibbles and Tom Mulligan in front of the Nga Tukemata waka on Clive River yesterday. Jim and Marie hope the Waitangi Day Family Festival at Clive's Farndon Park will continue. Photo / Warren Buckland

After a decade and a half of success, the Waitangi Day Family Festival at Clive's Farndon Park has been cancelled.

Organising committee spokesperson Marie Edwards said the cancellation was due to the death of committee member Lily Baker last month and a serious neck injury sustained by her husband Jim Edwards.

"Both members carried a large workload and brought with them numerous helpers to fulfil all the various tasks that a public event requires," she said.

Kaumatua Jerry Hapuku said the cancellation was sad news but there was still the Waitangi Day celebration at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in Hastings.

The Clive cancellation would save him a long walk - every year the 76-year-old makes the trek from Hasting's Waipatu Marae to Clive for a re-enactment of the Treaty signing, which was signed by his great-great grandfather Heretaunga chief Te Hapuku.

The Clive celebration started in 2000 after a positive response to Millennium celebrations featuring the waka.

It was invited to join with Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated's Waitangi Day celebration when it started several years ago, but Mrs Edwards said the Clive celebration was appropriate for the re-enactment because of its proximity to the Treaty signing site and the use of the waka Nga Tukemata O Kahungunu for the re-enactment.

"The waka was the focus and having a pageant on the river, commemorating the Treaty and the arrival of the early settlers, we felt was an important part of the day. That suited us better than going down to the Sports Park for lots of sport activities."

She said the organisers of the two events remained on good terms and the Sports Park event had become increasingly cultural, staging the kapa haka regional competition.

She said a major concern was that the Clive event would lose impetus, a view Mr Hapuku shared. "Sadly I think we are going to see the whole thing close down," he said.

His usual Waitangi Day practice was to split his time between the two celebrations. "At least there will be one celebration carrying on, but not in the area where the actual signing was."

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said he was unaware of the cancellation and it was "sad".

"There's another celebration at the Sports Park which is getting bigger and bigger, but it isn't quite the same as the traditional event."

"I'm a little bit disappointed, I will definitely want to see if it can be regenerated."

Mr Yule said the event was "very reliant" on volunteers and the next question to ask would be whether the Hastings District Council and the Napier City Council needed to step in to bring the festival back next year.

"The conversation we need to have is, can we do it for next year?"

Mrs Edwards said new members with good community contacts were needed if the event was to continue.

"Lily in particular had many friends and associates from the Hastings Car Club who took care of all the parking arrangements, as well as her fellow members of the Hawke's Bay branch of genealogists who managed the river pageant including dressing in period costume, assisted with the morning tea for invited guests and took turns helping all of the many visitors to sign the Treaty of Peace and Harmony."

Mr Edwards fractured his neck in a fall two weeks ago while the waka was being refurbished on dry land.

"He has to be ultra-careful if he wants it to heal and I don't want him sitting there watching us struggle with the event."

She is appealing for 2017 volunteers.

"Young people don't seem to want to volunteer," Mrs Edwards said. "Hopefully halfway through the year we have enough people around us to make it work again."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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