The radio technician who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes of Waitangi Day dawn services at Mount Maunganui wants New Zealand to reach the point where it can truly celebrate the Treaty.

Today's commemoration of the signing of the Treaty at Waitangi in 1840 meant a lot to George Burt, a pakeha of migrant parents who has worked hard through radio to bring the Maori voice to a wider audience.

The husband of Katikati actress Mabel Wharekawa-Burt has been involved with Tauranga's Moana Radio station for 20 years and worked as the dawn service's sound man for longer than he cared to remember.

Burt said the Treaty was a unique document, the fruits of which were now becoming apparent.


''Those that signed the Treaty set a benchmark for engagement," Burt said.

But it was not plain sailing. Settlers thirsty for land pressured colonial governments to use the law as a blunt instrument to gain advantage over Maori and ultimately get land, he said.

''Things could have been much better if the government had adhered strictly to the principles of the Treaty.''

Burt said the Treaty could be compared to a pou, or post, around which everyone could be anchored - even although some people still felt the Treaty catered too much to Maori.

He said the Treaty was unique because it set out the basis for a shared relationship, and he could see no better venue for a dawn service to symbolise that relationship than Hopukiore (Mount Drury).

There was a special ambiance provided by the nearness of Mauao, the sound of the waves lapping against the beach of Mauo and the dawn. ''It's a great location.''

''I would hope that we are moving to the point where we can celebrate the Treaty.''

Two weeks ago, Burt was at Ratana Pa helping broadcast proceedings when the Labour delegation led by Prime Minister Jacinda Adern and their coalition partners were welcomed onto the marae.


He said Adern's humble approach on the marae saw her accorded an appropriate place and time to speak. ''She did not attempt to push herself to the front.''

Burt said this was a reflection of how the younger generation had a better approach to engaging on things Maori.

He said Adern's willingness to engage was also highlighted by her decision to spend five days at Waitangi. ''She understands the opportunities. There are people there that she can engage with - and what better place to do it.''

Burt said things were changing. ''Maori, in my view, are great opportunists and the Treaty settlements have been a great vehicle for Maori to extract maximum value.''

However old land grievances still bubbled away, such as the taking of Panepane Point at the bottom of Matakana Island by the former Tauranga Harbour Board. He said it was taken under the Public Works Act and then passed to the Western Bay District Council.

Despite the fact there were living descendants of the original Maori owners, the council was still wrestling with giving the land back, he said.

Burt wanted to see relationships strengthened between Maori and authorities and the end to Maori being disenfranchised from involvement in decision making.

He was disappointed to see the level of opposition to the creation of a Maori seat on the Western Bay District Council because it ran counter to the spirit of the Treaty and moving towards a more inclusive society.

''What are they afraid of. Bringing the Maori view of the world to the table would benefit everyone.''

Treaty of Waitangi Dawn Service
Where: Hopukiore (Mt Drury).
When: Today starting 6.30am with a karakia (prayer) by tangata whenua.
Community service: Speeches and hymns from kaumatua, clergy, civic leaders and rangatahi.