Hundreds arrive for Waitangi celebrations

By Adam Bennett, James Ihaka

6 comments
It wouldn't be Waitangi without bridge jumping, Matthew Whui maintains the tradition. PHOTO/John Stone
It wouldn't be Waitangi without bridge jumping, Matthew Whui maintains the tradition. PHOTO/John Stone

Rain has not deterred the hundreds who have arrived at the Treaty grounds at Waitangi.

A dawn service overseen by Bishop Kito Pikaahu began shortly after 5am today when National and Labour party ministers were again led on to the marae by veteran Maori activist Titewhai Harawira.

Prime Minister John Key asked those gathered to pray for those who had passed away, making special mention of former Labour MP Parekura Horomia, who died last year.

Mr Horomia would be remembered "for the beaming smile and the beauty of the human spirit he had," Mr Key said.

Labour leader David Cunliffe began his prayer asking that God bless "the young, the old, the wet and the dry," earning chuckles from the dozens standing in the rain outside the whare.

The celebrations today mark 174 years since the Treaty was signed.

Mana party leader Hone Harawira was among several who paid tribute to the former South African leader Nelson Mandela.

"After 27 years in jail he had a smile on his face and love in his heart....that's bigger than I could ever be."

Mr Mandela was also remembered by the Maori Council's Maanu Paul.

Following the dawn service at Waitangi, Mr Key underlined his Government's record on advancing Treaty settlements and offered an incentive to his Ngapuhi hosts to close the northern iwi's own deal with the Crown.

Addressing Maori leaders and Crown representatives, Mr Key said he was "proud to stand by our record on Treaty settlements" which had been "accelerated under this Government".

He paid tribute to coalition partners the Maori Party for their role in helping Maori succeed in areas including Treaty settlements.

His Government came into office with the aim to secure "just and durable Treaty settlements by 2014".

"That date was not a deadline but a best endeavours goal."

He pointed out the Government had in the last five years signed 41 of the 67 settlements to date.

"More deeds of settlement will be signed and more Treaty legislation passed before the year is out," he said.

Mr Key pointed out that Northland needed economic stimulus which the Government was addressing by encouraging minerals exploration, investment in agribusiness and improving transport links.

"However, the biggest injection will come when all iwi here willing and able to settle do so."

Iwi would be financially empowered with several hundred million dollars injected into the local economy, he said.

"My challenge to all Ngapuhi today is this: put aside your differences - the Crown is ready and willing to negotiate with whoever you choose as your representatives."

Mr Key said he was keen to see a deal struck this year.

"If that can be done I am prepared to look at some form of payment on account to incentivise people to act in a positive and progressive manner."

- Northern Advocate

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