Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

Waitangi Day touchstones: The essence of Aotearoa

Prime Minister Bill English - Shearing sheds

"Some of my favourite childhood memories are from my time spent in shearing sheds. It is hot, noisy, dirty and sweaty. But in those sheds you saw men and women, Pakeha and Maori, working together as a team."

A powerful performance from the Mutton Birds lead vocalist. Photo / Ron Burgin
A powerful performance from the Mutton Birds lead vocalist. Photo / Ron Burgin

Herald New Zealander of the Year, Leisa Renwick - Anchor Me by the Mutton Birds

"For me, the song sums up Waitangi Day. It is about the ties that bind, about the people that ground us. When times are hard, when we feel ourselves being pulled down by circumstances, by the trials of life, perhaps by our own choices, it is those few special people who give us the strength to hold on, who anchor us."

Mt Taranaki looms behind dairy cows. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Mt Taranaki looms behind dairy cows. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Leader of the Labour Party Andrew Little - Mt Taranaki

"My enduring memory as a young man is tramping on the mountain in the morning and lying on a Taranaki beach in the afternoon. Those experiences to me are the essence of New Zealand. So when I'm on a distant shore and I think about my homeland, that's what comes to mind in a flash."

Whitebait Fritters. Photo / Babiche Martens
Whitebait Fritters. Photo / Babiche Martens

Musician, singer and jewellery designer Boh Runga - whitebait fritters

"It is the anniversary of my father Joseph's passing next week, so I've chosen whitebait fritters as my Waitangi Day touchstone. As a kid I was a hopeful bystander of the great Kiwi pastime of whitebaiting - watching my dad in his giant rubber waders bringing in the net full of what would, with any luck, be lunch."

Julian Dennison stars in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Photo / Supplied
Julian Dennison stars in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Photo / Supplied

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy - Hunt for the Wilderpeople

"It's a joyous, chaotic, funny and touching movie - wonderful entertainment and quintessentially Kiwi. I've seen it several times and I know I'll see it again. Wilderpeople is a terrific advertisement for this country - it makes me laugh, get damp-eyed and laugh all over again."

Mince and cheese pies. Photo / 123RF
Mince and cheese pies. Photo / 123RF

Shortland Street actor Jarod Rawiri - mince and cheese pies

"The Shane Warne 'who ate all the pies' catchphrase has put a dampener on my favourite Kiwi kai, but I'm going to forget my waistline on our national day and splurge out on a mince'n'cheese smothered in Wattie's tomato sauce. Just one, though."

Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

One News presenter Wendy Petrie - the Waitangi Treaty Grounds

"There's something majestic about the view. Sprawling lawn, flag pole and endless ocean. It's usually quiet and peaceful at 5am at the Dawn Service as people gather at Te Whare Runanga, the carved meeting house. It's a privilege to present the news on this historic day."

Parcels of food are uncovered after cooking in the steambox hangi. Photo / Alan Gibson
Parcels of food are uncovered after cooking in the steambox hangi. Photo / Alan Gibson

Movie actor James Rolleston - A hangi

"You can't get more Kiwi than that. It's always there in any celebrations in my family. Pork is my favourite and it has to have roast potatoes in it. Yum!"

A New Zealand icon - a cone of hokey pokey ice cream. Photo / Paul Estcourt
A New Zealand icon - a cone of hokey pokey ice cream. Photo / Paul Estcourt

TVNZ Breakfast presenter Jack Tame - Hokey pokey icecream

"The day really is whatever you make of it: An opportunity to reflect on our shared, complicated history. An opportunity to protest. A day to celebrate or to chillax with two scoops of hokey pokey at the beach. Maybe all of the above."

Paua. Photo / Kristin Edge
Paua. Photo / Kristin Edge

Sky Sport presenter and former Black Fern Melodie Robinson - fresh paua

"Whanau, celebrations and food collectively come to mind about Waitangi Day. It was a tradition for Dad to drive us to Okains Bay to enjoy the celebrations there. And back in Akaroa we had the usual family party. That meant paua - fritters or raw out of the shell. Bliss."

The scene from the film Boy by director Taika Waititi. Photo / Supplied
The scene from the film Boy by director Taika Waititi. Photo / Supplied

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Al Brown - Boy

"Taika Waititi captured the true essence of the 80s through the use of music, classic and unique New Zealand humour, beautifully shot landscapes and realness that was so on point for any New Zealander who grew up through that decade. A perfect balance of comedy and drama that made me proud to call New Zealand home."

The Wanaka Tree. Photo / Mark Meredith
The Wanaka Tree. Photo / Mark Meredith

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen - Wanaka

"For me, on Waitangi Day or any other day, a place like Wanaka is a great reminder about what New Zealand represents. It is all about beauty, the mountains, lakes and being around family and having a fun time together. No matter where I am in the world, when I think about Wanaka it makes me feel good and reminds me of home."

- Herald on Sunday

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