The importance of the partnership between Māori and pākehā was a key theme of reflections and celebrations voiced at Tauranga's Waitangi Day dawn ceremony.

Around 400 people attended the commemoration service at Hopukiore (Mount Drury) in Mount Maunganui.

Master of ceremonies Turi Ngatai said that, to him, the purpose of Waitangi Day was "a day to remember, to celebrate. A day as we, as a nation, remember the partnership ... Te Tiriti (the treaty)."

Waitangi Day dawn ceremony at Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak
Waitangi Day dawn ceremony at Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak

Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey said he saw Waitangi Day as a "stocktake" of the relationship between Māori and pākehā.

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"Waitangi Day was initially all about partnership - an actual, true partnership," he said.

"It's a day that we look and go, 'how well are we doing at this partnership?'"

Coffey said if he was "brutally honest", he didn't know if we were doing that well - most people did not understand te reo and local government in the Bay of Plenty severely lacked Māori voices.

"When we've got two councils, locally, that actually don't have Māori representation sitting around the table.

"Are we there, or do we think we're there ... are we really having a true partnership?"

National Party leader and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges advocated teaching the full story of Māori and pākehā history in schools.

"We should have our treaty and the history taught compulsorily through our schools," he said. "All our young people should know our history."

"Not in a partial way, with one clear view on one side or the other, but clear factual accurate history so they can work out what Te Tiriti o Waitangi means and what the relationship means today."

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Bay of Plenty Regional Council councillor Matemoana McDonald said it was a time to acknowledge the past while moving into the future.

"To go forwards looking backwards into the past ... to acknowledge the injustice, broken promises and pain."

Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber. Photo / George Novak
Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber. Photo / George Novak

Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber supported working in collaboration with an open mind and respecting each others' mana.

"We have two ears for listening and one mouth for talking ... it's most important to listen and learn from others."

Performances by Waiata International Group and Te Kura o Matapihi's kapa haka group, along with speeches from Rangatahi (youth) speakers, followed the speeches.

The ceremony was concluded with a closing karakia, hīmene and a final performance from the Ratana band.