Not many people can say they have helped prepare food for the Prime Minister.

But three Whangarei girls can.

Tarquala Whittaker, 13, Nicky Sheath, 13, and Anastasia Gallagher, 12, were busy yesterday preparing and serving food for the many dignitaries and members of the public who attended Waitangi commemorations, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

"It's an honour. Most people don't get to do that," said Anastasia.


Tarquala agreed, saying they had been helping out with several aspects of the feast. "We've been making food and bringing it back and forth, buttering the breads, cooking hangi," she said.

The post-powhiri lunch was one of many new features of Waitangi Day commemorations.

In marquees on the Upper Treaty Grounds masses were fed an array of kai. On one side of a roped-off area the dignitaries were served, while on the other side organisers ensured members of the public were also fed.

Huhana Lyndon, the MC for the day, said kaumatua and kuia were very clear the theme of the day would be manaakitangata (hospitality and kindness).

"And being manaakitangata that everyone eat. If we're having hangi in the marquee, out for the general public they're having hangi. So nearly 1000 hangi were produced because we want everybody to be a part of it."

The three girls said their nana and marae, Motatau Marae, were also involved in putting on the feast.

Anastasia and Nicky had their photo taken with the Prime Minister and Anastasia said she was nervous as she was wearing her working gear and "not looking my best right now".

The girls said the only piece of advice they received before working was "just don't sweat over them".