Big crowds expected at Waitangi
Tens of thousands of people are expected to descend on the Bay of Islands as the nation marks the 179th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Sometimes controversial but always welcoming and visually spectacular, commemorations will be spread over much of the coming week, culminating in a two-day festival at the Treaty Grounds on February 5-6.
Following the success of last year's change of venue for the official powhiri, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will again be welcomed on February 5 at Te Whare Rūnanga (the carved meeting house, sometimes called "the upper marae") on the Treaty Grounds instead of Te Tii Marae.
This year she will be joined by Opposition leader Simon Bridges, the first time a National leader has travelled to Northland for the commemorations since then Prime Minister John Key refused to attend in 2016.
The next morning Ardern, along with other MPs, is expected to again help cook breakfast for the public. This year's barbecue brekkie will be prepared on the Upper Treaty Grounds. It may the only time in your life a Prime Minister makes you breakfast so it's worth getting up early.
However, the real highlight this year could take place on January 4, when Hekenukumai Busby from Aurere in Doubtless Bay is knighted by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy.
"Sir Hek", as he's likely to be known after next Monday, is revered across the Pacific for his role in reviving waka hourua (double-hulled voyaging canoes) and traditional celestial navigation. The ceremony is likely to be heart-felt and huge.
Sir Hek's investiture will take place around noon after the Governor-General is officially welcomed to the Treaty Grounds.
Another highlight is always the arrival of the waka fleet and mass haka on Ti Beach sometime in the morning of February 6, generally around 9.30am. In a good year well over 300 warriors will perform a series of powerful haka as they beach their canoes in front of Te Tii Marae. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say it's one of Northland's great spectacles.
It wouldn't be Waitangi of course without some sort of protest. A hīkoi will assemble outside Te Tii Marae at 11am on February 6 to protest pollution of the Hokianga Harbour, calling on central and local government to do more to halt declining water quality and upgrade wastewater treatment plants.
It's not yet clear if the traditional 1pm hīkoi from he marae to the flagpole will also take place.
The real joy of Waitangi, however, is just wandering around the various venues and rubbing shoulders with an extraordinary mix of people. Markets, entertainment and activities are spread across the Treaty Grounds, Hobson's Beach (by the waka shelter), the sports fields opposite the Treaty Grounds and the campground next to Te Tii Marae.
And don't believe what the Mike Hoskings of the world say about Waitangi Day until you've seen it yourself. It can be confronting but it's also welcoming and hugely enjoyable.
The only real downside, with so many people in a small area split by a one-way bridge, is negotiating the traffic and finding a place to park. The best option may be to park at Bledisloe Domain near Haruru Falls and take a shuttle bus from there. The bridge is normally closed to traffic early in the morning of February 6.
Treaty Grounds programme
The Festival of Waitangi gets under way at the Treaty Grounds at 4.45pm on February 5 with a Royal NZ Navy Beat Retreat by the flagpole and runs until after 7pm on February 6.
Events take place at the Upper Treaty Grounds, the waka stage (by the waka shelter) and the sports field. Note that this programme covers only the events organised by the Waitangi National Trust and doesn't include events at Te Tii Marae or on the beach.
Upper Treaty Grounds
■ 5am: Dawn service at Te Whare Rūnanga.
■ 6.30am: Flag raising ceremony.
■ 10am: Church service at Te Whare Rūnanga.
■ 11.30am: Royal NZ Navy Band performance and kapa haka.
■ 12 noon: 21-gun salute from HMNZS Wellington.
■ 12.15pm: Whangārei band 5K on the main stage.
■ 1pm: DDF hip hop dance crew.
■ 1.35pm: Te Pū Ao kapa haka group.
■ 2.10pm: Hātea kapa haka group.
■ 2.45pm: Musical duo Daniel and Ashley.
■ 3.15pm: Singer/songwriter Te Huaki Puanaki.
■ 3.50pm: Montage Band, Kaikohe.
■ 5pm: Royal NZ Navy concert and marching followed by lowering of the flag.
■ 5.35 Billy TK Jnr and the Groove Shakers featuring guest artists Fiona Cosgrove, Ronan Kavanaugh and Willy Hona from Herbs.
■ 7.15pm: Main stage entertainment ends.
■ 10am-4pm: Market stalls selling arts, craft and food.
■ 12.05pm: Hip hop dance.
■ 12.30pm: Te Pū Ao kapa haka group.
■ 1pm: Auckland Anglican Māori Club kapa haka.
■ 1.30pm: Hātea kapa haka group
■ 2pm: Singer/songwriter John Timberjack Donoghue.
■ 2.30pm: Singer/songwriter Te Huaki Puanaki.
■ 3pm: DDF hip hop dance group.
Sports Field Area
(opposite Treaty Grounds entrance)
■ 9am-3pm: Whānau Ora with Te Taitokerau health and education providers and entertainment on the Ngāti Hine FM stage.
■ 10am-4pm: Children's rides plus market stalls selling arts, craft and kai.
Entry to the Treaty Grounds is free from 4pm on February 5 and all day on February 6. Go to www.waitangi.org.nz/events/waitangi-day for the full programme.
Super Rugby's coming to Kaikohe
For the first time ever Super Rugby is coming to Kaikohe with the Blues and the Chiefs meeting for a pre-season clash at Lindvart Park this Saturday, February 2.
The game, one of five pre-season matches ahead of the opening game in Hamilton in mid-February, will feature All Blacks from both squads and promises a full afternoon of entertainment.
All Blacks reserves will demonstrate fitness regimes at 1.45pm followed by a full team warm-up, police relays with "beer goggles" (eyewear imitating the effects of alcohol on co-ordination), and a police dog demonstration. Kick-off will be at 3pm.
General adult admission tickets cost $15 with grandstand seats $30. Entry for kids aged 5-18 will cost $5 while under-5s will be free. The gates at Kaikohe RFC Central Ground will open at noon.
Fans who can't make it to Saturday's game can still meet the Blues players at the Captain's Run training session at Lindvart Park at 10.30am on Friday, an event which is free and open to all.
Tickets can be bought at sporty.co.nz or any Far North District Council service centre or i-Site. They are also available from Percy's Fish Shop at 74 Broadway, Kaikohe.
The Northland Rugby Union initially approached the council about hosting a pre-season game at Kerikeri Domain, the location of a previous pre-season match in 2011.
However, the Kaikohe Rugby Football and Sports Club put up a strong case to have the game at Lindvart Park instead, arguing that Kaikohe had a fenced-off ground, changing facilities and ample space for spectators and parking, meaning big savings for the rugby union and the council.
If the game was held in Kerikeri temporary fencing and grandstands would be needed, as well as portable showers or buses to bring players from the sports complex on the Heritage Bypass.
Pioneer Village open day
With big crowds expected in Kaikohe this Saturday for the town's first Super Rugby match, the Pioneer Village is organising a live day with a discounted entry fee, train rides and activities.
The event will run from 10am-2pm and will feature $2 rides on the village's own narrow-gauge railway, live displays, kids' activities, and kai. Entry will be $5.
The Pioneer Village is an outdoor museum with a collection of historic buildings, machinery and artefacts. It is on Recreation Rd, a short stroll from the rugby grounds.
Jon Toogood plays in Russell
Kiwi music legend and Shihad frontman Jon Toogood — whose song Home Again really should be considered an alternative national anthem — is playing a solo show in Russell this Friday as part of a national tour.
Last year was a loud one for Toogood, between recording, releasing and touring a new album with The Adults and celebrating Shihad's 30th anniversary with an Australasian tour.
He's starting 2019 unplugged and unaccompanied with an acoustic gig plucked from two Adults albums and three decades of Shihad.
The doors at the Duke Tavern in Russell will open at 7pm; go to jontoogood.live for tickets or more information. If you can't make the Russell show he's also playing the Mangawhai Tavern on Saturday and The Sawmill in Leigh on Sunday.
Navy band in Kerikeri
The Royal New Zealand Navy Band is playing a one-off concert at Kerikeri's Turner Centre this Sunday as a prelude to its musical role during the Waitangi Day commemorations.
The navy is promising ''an afternoon of many different musical flavours with something in our programme for everyone''.
The concert starts at 2pm; tickets are $10 for adults or $5 for under-18s from the Turner Centre box office on Cobham Rd.
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