Waitangi Day celebration kicked off in style in Hawke's Bay this morning with a hikoi to the place where the local treaty was signed in 1840.

The hikoi, which included prominent locals like Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule, district councillor Henare O'Keefe and regional coulcillor Rex Graham, went from Hastings' Waipatu Marae to Waitangi Estuary in Awatoto, where the treaty was signed.

Also taking part in the hikoi was Jerry Hapuku, whose great-great-grandfather was a signatory - Heretaunga chief Te Hapuku.

The Hawke's Bay branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists received the party in period costume "and put on a cup of tea". A brief ceremony will be held at the site, where Ngati Kahungunu signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

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The biggest celebration in the Bay is taking place at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park. Hosted by Ngati Kahungunu, it includes the second day of the iwi's regional kapa haka competition, from which four groups will be chosen to represent the area at Te Matatini, the huge biennial Maori cultural festival being held at the park from February 22-26 next year.

The kapa haka started last night, from 5-9pm, and resumed about 8am today, the Waitangi Day "Big 9" event, with sports, arts, food and music, opens with a powhiri at 11am.

"The day is about family, community and nationhood," said iwi chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana.

Ngati Kahungunu Iwi has provided most of the funding, supported by Hastings District Council, Te Puni Kokiri, Eastern and Central Community Trust and Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga.

Metservice was last night forecasting a maximum temperature of 27C in Hastings, but rain is forecast for tomorrow and Monday.