A hikoi of almost 1000 people arrived at Parihaka marae today, led by "recovering racist" and New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd, with a call for better race relations in New Zealand.

The three-day march to historic Parihaka came out of Mr Judd's experience raising the issue of Maori representation on New Plymouth's council. The abuse he received after supporting Maori seats led to a decision to not stand again.

Mr Judd spoke to the Herald as he turned from Taranaki's Coastal Highway into Parihaka Road.

"It's been inclusive, it's been exciting, it's been emotional. It's been something we've been needing for a long time."

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He said the hikoi had received encouragement as it proceeded towards Parihaka, with people joining as it went.

Dozens of children met the hikoi at the start of Parihaka Road, escorting the group to the powhiri at the marae which has become synonymous with peaceful resistance.

Parihaka was the site of Maori opposition to land confiscations between 1860 and 1881. The non-violent opposition ended when the government, led by Native Minister and Wanganui MP John Bryce, saw 1600 cavalry and infantry attack and sack the village.

Parihaka's leaders Te Whiti-o-Rongomai (Taranaki and Te Atiawa) and Tohu Kakahi (Taranaki and Ngati Ruanui) were detained without trial for 16 months while Parihaka's inhabitants were dispersed.