The gusty southerlies were not an issue for about 300 patriotic people gathered in warm blankets and beanies for the Tauranga Moana Waitangi Day Dawn Service yesterday morning.

The special event, held at Hopukiore (Mount Drury), marked the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and saw several guest speakers discuss unity, peace and moving forward.

As showers threatened, the gathering sang waiata, said prayers and blessings. By the time the national anthem was sung, the sun had started to shine and a rainbow appeared over the crowd.

Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy said Kiwis should be grateful to even have a Treaty.

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"One-hundred-and-seventy-five years ago all our ancestors agreed all New Zealanders have rights, not just Europeans, Maori or rich Kiwis," she said.

"I believe the Treaty was New Zealand's first founding human rights document. In 1840, to say all people had human rights was a world-leading concept because in many other nations slavery was still legal at that time."

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said as Tauranga and New Zealand moved forward as one nation the issue of change of ownership of land, co-governance and co-management was going to come to the forefront.

"I acknowledge for some members in our community that does not sit well. Well that is their problem. It is going to happen and in my view it is nothing to be scared of. It is something that should be celebrated and enhanced.

"As we move forward, those initiatives will gather speed and momentum but, more importantly, they will gather understanding."

Western Bay of Plenty District Mayor Ross Paterson said the Tauranga community needed to continue to look forward.

"I look back [over] the past 20 years at the local iwi, their settlement process, what that has achieved and how they are now in a position to decide their own futures and take a strong place in the Tauranga community."

Pastor Tamati Cameron said he had to repent for recently sneaking into Waitangi, as he was appalled at the $15 cover charge.

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"I think it's a bit of an outrage we have to pay $15 to go somewhere where every New Zealander should have the right to go to. But I got in there."

However, Mr Cameron said two things came to mind around the Treaty. "Where there is unity, God commands a blessing. The second, a kingdom divided against itself will not stand ... When there is division and disunity there is destruction."