This year's Waitangi Day celebrations have been hailed as an "unprecedented success".

From the hikoi to the the Big 9 celebrations, locals from all walks of life gathered to celebrate what Hastings District Councillor Henare O'Keefe called a "dual view of Aotearoa".

"All classes and deciles were involved. I never picked up on one point of grievance or one point of animosity."

He said one participant said something which would stick with him forever: "Whilst we may not agree, we can still walk hand in hand."


Mr O'Keefe said Ngati Kahungunu had "grown up", and their demeanour had matured over the years, which now made Waitangi Day a celebration.

Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana agreed and said he was met with a "stark contrast" when he arrived back in the region following a stint at Waitangi itself.

He said his week up north was a "hot political crucible", while back home the mood was balanced, providing both a political experience as well as the family experience for an "unprecedented success".

Mr Tomoana said the weekend was a taste of what was to come next year for both Waitangi Day and the national kapa haka festival, Te Matatini, set to run just two weeks after.

There was a 15,000-person turnover throughout the day at the Big 9 all-day event which showcased nine different sports, arts and music events at Hawke's Bay Sports Park.

Wairoa's Te Rerenga Kotuku kapa haka group took out the top prize of the day while Ngati Ranginui from Tauranga placed second, Ngati Kahungunu ki Heretaunga third, and Tamatea Arikinui from Porangahau fourth.

Another feature of the day was the burgeoning cooking competition, Pacific on a Plate, where young chefs showcased their culinary skills with seafood.

My Kitchen Rules 2015 finalist and Flaxmere local Henry Heke was among other guest judges on the panel who assessed the culturally inspired dishes.

While placings were not given in this competition, Mr Heke said the aim was to grow it and hopefully have it back, bigger and better, at next year's Waitangi Day and possibly even at Te Matatini.

"Not enough people eat seafood as their protein and we are trying to encourage that as well," he said.

Mr O'Keefe said he had been following Waitangi happenings around the country and there was certainly some similar behaviour from past years with jostling and shoving.

"The majority of it is all positive, though. Keep Waitangi Day, don't ever let it slip away."