After the Dawn Service today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will get behind a barbecue and feed the people who woke at 4am and then slip away from Waitangi having fulfilled her promise to return.
National Party leader Judith Collins will also slip away after the Dawn Service – but few will notice. Collins did not even get to deliver a speech on what was her first ever visit to the Treaty grounds for Waitangi Day.
Visits to Waitangi have always been difficult for the Opposition parties for the simple fact that it is the Government which has the power – and the money. Hence, it is the Government that gets the time and attention lavished on it.
Some attention is paid to the Opposition largely as insurance lest they become the Government at some point. The poor old Opposition are barely glanced at – but also face criticism if they stay away.
But Ardern has turned the Government's natural dominance of proceedings into a stranglehold.
She has made it as much about herself as her position.
In her first year in 2018, she went for five days and told them she would return each year.
Return she has – not just for the formalities around Waitangi Day, but for long stretches leading up to it.
She was the first PM to drop in to visit all the Māori Wardens in 2018. She still goes each year.
She was pregnant when she first went to see them. Now her 2-year-old daughter goes with her – this year they were the first and only group to get time with Neve.
The aunties have license to ask occasional cheeky questions: and this year, they were told further news of her wedding was not far away.
She does not only deliver her time: a slew of announcements to the benefit of Māori are announced each year.
This year, protection of Māori wards on councils, and a $120 million investment fund for Ngāpuhi were among them. The announcement of a Matariki holiday on June 24, 2022, capped it off.
Ardern also delivers the right words when she talks about the basis of the relationship.
She talks about te Tiriti, rather than the Treaty – implicitly acknowledging the Māori interpretation of its words. She talks about He Whakaputanga – the Declaration of Independence signed by chiefs in 1835 - that many politicians choose to ignore.
She gets accused by opposition MPs rather than Māori of promising the big stuff, but delivering on only the shiny stuff such as the Matariki holiday.
Opposition MPs would say that, but they will not be the only ones if Ardern does not deliver on her oratory.
The kaumātua on the paepae are a skeptical bunch, and have heard many politicians' promises over the years. What she hears from them is that Māori still want progress on social issues such as housing, poverty and health. And they still want self-determination in securing that progress.
Each year, Ardern says she is trying. Ardern said repeatedly this week that she did not think there would ever be a time when she would be able to claim perfection.
There would be challenges – some of the old, gnarly longstanding ones, such as disparity in health and education, and some new ones.
Ahead lie some of those challenges: and Ardern will need to walk a tightrope on some.
One of them arrived in 2020 in the form of Covid-19.
The iwi leaders had asked about the rollout of the vaccine for Māori. Ardern knows full well that unless there was strong evidence Māori were at more danger from Covid-19 than any other ethnicity, it would be political dynamite to make race the criteria for being first in line for the vaccines.
She dodged questions about whether she was considering priority vaccines for Māori, instead choosing to emphasise that vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and immune-compromised, would go first.
Pushed further on the rollout to Māori, she stuck to saying the emphasis was on ensuring that there would be access to the vaccines – and work to ensure Māori felt safe in taking the vaccine.
The other 'new' challenge that will beset her over the next year is an old challenge: freshwater rights. That has long been on the table for iwi leaders, and as the Government moves from focusing on cleaning up waterways to questions of allocation, and Resource Management Act changes, it will come into stark relief.
She is playing it down now, but the recent legal action by Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Kahungunu to test their authority over water in the courts will give Ardern a much greater headache than the Waitangi sun.