After years of "risk" Ngapuhi will welcome a Kingitanga head to Te Tii Marae today as part of Waitangi Day commemorations.
In his first foray to Waitangi as leader of the movement, King Tuheitia is expected to come north with a large Tainui contingent.
Ngapuhi kaumatua Hone Sadler said it was the first time in years that a Kingitanga leader had attended the event. But there were understandable reasons why Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu had stayed away, he said.
"From my perspective if you have a look at those years in the 1990s, they were very turbulent. It was a time of a lot of protests and I don't think the Kingitanga wanted to be exposed to that kind of risk. And it was very risky to be here.
"I think of late we've started to get a real good handle on how Waitangi should be run in terms of purpose. That is commemorating Te Tiriti o Waitangi. I think we've come of age in terms of our relationships with other iwi, tau iwi [pakeha]. We're all looking for unity."
He said hosting King Tuheitia wasn't about greeting him as the Maori king. Instead it was about Tuheitia's relationship with Ngapuhi, and recognising his whakapapa links with iwi throughout the region.
Royalty from Rarotonga arrived yesterday and Tongan dignitaries are expected this afternoon.
Having all those "ariki" attend lifted the mana of the occasion, Mr Sadler said.
Kingitanga spokesman Tuku Morgan said there was no issue surrounding why the Kingitanga hadn't officially visited year in, year out. But this year it was important the king came to Waitangi as the movement celebrated its 150th year.
Yesterday, a beautifully hot day had waka taua paddlers heading for the beach while out in the bay HMNZS Canterbury was anchored in anticipation of official duties later in the week.
Governor-General Anand Satyanand will also be welcomed at the marae early this morning.