Forget what TV news and Mike Hosking tell you: Waitangi Day at Waitangi is one of the liveliest, most welcoming and enjoyable days out in Northland.
Sure, there's sometimes a bit of name-calling or mud-throwing, but it's almost always confined to the morning of February 5 when the Prime Minister arrives at Te Tii Marae.
Even the annual hikoi, from the marae to the flagpole around noon on February 6, is a fairly festive event these days despite the serious message. Expect lots of banners and chanting about the TPPA this year.
Otherwise you will find hundreds of food and information stands, children's rides, plenty of pomp and men in crisp white uniforms thanks to the New Zealand Navy, and a great line-up of entertainment including bluesman Paul Ubana Jones, Kiwi singer Anika Moa, hip-hop dancers, chamber music by the Martin sisters and top kapa haka groups.
If you want something more serious there are also plenty of discussion forums, lectures and opportunities for debate; if you are looking for spectacle, don't miss the mass haka by hundreds of paddlers as they come ashore at Tii Beach.
The action is concentrated in three areas - the campground next to Te Tii Marae, the field opposite the Treaty Grounds entrance, and the Waka Stage near the Treaty Grounds waka shelter.
The only real hassle is parking. One option is to leave the car at Bledisloe Domain in Haruru Falls ($5 parking fee) and catch a free shuttle bus to Waitangi.
Entry to the Treaty Grounds is free on February 6. Go to www.waitangi.org.nz/events for the Waitangi National Trust's festival programme; note this doesn't include events at and around the marae.
New museum opens
The new Museum of Waitangi will open to the public on Sunday, February 7, after the official opening by Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae this Friday.
The museum, part of a $14 million redevelopment of the Treaty Grounds, will house taonga relating to the Treaty and early Maori-Pakeka interaction - such as the christening gown of Queen Victoria's Ngapuhi godson and a silver medal presented to Chief Te Pahi by the Governor of Australia in 1806 - as well as a bit of whizz-bang technology.
We understand a Waitangi woman, ta moko artist Paitangi Ostick, was the model for a holographic kaikaranga who will greet museum visitors.
An upstairs space will be set aside for rotating exhibitions, starting with a show of images of past Waitangi Days by top photographers such as Ans Westra.
Don't forget if you are a Far North resident you can apply for a Friends of Waitangi Card giving you unlimited admission for a one-off payment $5, a good deal if we ever saw one. Bring proof of address and photo ID.
Marae helpers needed
Do you want a hands-on, insiders' experience of Waitangi Day? If so you could do worse than volunteering at Te Tii Marae, which for a couple of frantic days is the centre of the nation's attention.
The marae's representative on the Focus Paihia trust, Ngati Kawa Taituha, says volunteers are needed to help behind the scenes from today until February 7, whether it's for 50 hours or just one.
Focus Paihia's Tiffany Holland says the huge workload is often left to the same old faces whose task it is to manage administration, security, media, toilet cleaning, rubbish disposal, laundry and marae stay arrangements. The biggest and most exhausting job of all is in the kitchen.
"It's not a glamorous job but the most meaningful thing you may get out of it is getting to know these gracious local families who do all this work without ever expecting any recognition or acknowledgement for what they've done for years and years," she says.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help.
The fifth annual lecture at St Paul's, better known as Paihia's Stone Church, will be delivered by Bill Edwards of Heritage New Zealand on the topic of New Zealand's many flags.
Did you know that New Zealand's current flag is our sixth flag? Or that the first New Zealand flag was probably made from a flax rain cape? Or that a Horeke-designed flag featured a crescent moon?
The lecture starts at 6.30pm this Friday, February 5.
The following day, from 1.30-4.30pm at the same venue, the Karuwha Trust is hosting a forum for people to share their stories "about their journey in history and engagement with justice issues".
This year's Soundgarden Music Festival, near Kohukohu in North Hokianga, features everything from blues and R&B to gypsy.
This year's headline acts are Auckland blues band Indigo Blue, Shadows cover group Shadz, Kerikeri gypsy jazz band Gadjo and Doubtless Bay R&B trio Soulshine, with singer-songwriter Chris Parfitt rounding out the line-up of visiting artists. Local bands will include early blues outfit Shingle Bob and peace-and-protest band Diggers. Food and coffee will be available.
Tickets are $25 (under 16 free) at the gate, 1262 Paponga Rd, off West Coast Rd about 10km west of Kohukohu (turn left from the ferry landing). The event starts at noon on Sunday, February 7, and runs until midnight. Go to www.soundgarden.co.nz for more information.
Hopetoun Brown - aka Nick Atkinson and Tim Stewart, who used to be Supergroove's horn section - will be playing a free show at Alongside on the Paihia waterfront from 7pm this Friday.
The town's Friday night street food market, originally held in Paihia Lanes (formerly Paihia Mall), is now also at Alongside. Saturday night's act is funk band Chemamari.
Flora, fauna, awa
A new show - Flora, Fauna and Awa - is opening at Kings Theatre Creative in Kawakawa at 5.30pm this Friday.
It will include works by Flox, Shane Hansen and more than 40 Te Tai Tokerau artists in clay, whakairo (carving), raranga (weaving), ta moko (tattoo), paint and print.
The foyer gallery will feature the Ngati Manu Taumarere Awa Exhibition, with works by artists of Ngati Manu descent as the hapu celebrates its inaugural Ngati Manu Taumarere River Festival. Both shows run until the end of March. Opening hours Wednesday to Sunday, 10.30am-4.30pm.
Breakfast with the cars
The next Breakfast with the Cars will be held at Paihia's Village Green on February 7. The monthly show runs from 8.30-10am and is open to classic cars, hot rods and custom cars. Free admission.
New location for council queries
All Far North District Council services in Kerikeri, including rates payments, have moved from Procter Library on Cobham Rd to the ground floor of the John Butler Centre at 60 Kerikeri Rd. Kerikeri's customer service centre shifted on January 18.
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