Traditions there for a reason
There are certain traditional protocols at Waitangi, the reasons for which aren't always immediately clear. Mostly, it's to do with the navy.
For instance, when 100 navy personnel marched on
to the upper Treaty ground the flag was carried in the middle of the marching troop and not out front as you'd expect. Why?
To protect the flag as a symbolic gesture representing the defence of the nation.
The flag in question is the Queen's Colour incorporating the New Zealand White Ensign with the Royal Cypher. It was presented to the Royal New Zealand Navy at HMNZS Philomel on March 24, 1970, by Queen Elizabeth II.
It is lowered in front of the Governor-General as another figurative sign that declares the Governor-General is higher, loftier in status, than the flag that represents her. It's another mark of respect for the office.
It is made from silk with gold thread stitching and manufactured in England. It is never touched with bare hands, gloves must be worn at all times to protect the silk and the gold.
The Governor-General's own standard is atop the flagstaff while she is present on the Treaty grounds and only lowered when she departs.
Of the flags on the flagstaff, hers is therefore the highest but next to the other flags it's by far the smallest in size.
Other flags on the pole are the United Tribes of New Zealand positioned to the north, the British Union flag to the south and New Zealand's current national flag in the centre.
The largest flag on the 34 metre tall flagstaff is the New Zealand flag in naval colours, meaning, it has a white background not the more familiar traditional royal blue.
It gets lowered only when the navy beats the retreat which comes at sunset after a signal from the drummers in a centuries-old military tradition that indicates the cessation of fighting and a return to camp.
All the sailors at Waitangi were armed and were given permission to fire, which all 100 of them did, simultaneously in a deafening volley.
On the national day (February 6) the navy gets to fire the big guns, in a 21-gun salute from (this year) HMNZS Otago anchored in the Bay.
It's another tradition. According to the NZ Defence Force, gun salutes show the ship's guns are now empty which signals there is no longer any hostile intent.
One newly-introduced protocol has become customary even if it's just a few years old.
Parade ground instruction in the navy is now in Māori and English. One officer said it was because both were official languages of New Zealand.
So is Sign language but in essence they've got that covered with a salute.
Growing big, ugly and curly
The contestants in an upcoming vegetable-growing contest at Kerikeri Primary School can be forgiven if they don't carry their produce to school.
It's not because they're lazy. It's just that these veges weigh more than most grown-ups, let alone the kids who are growing them.
On March 27, during the annual Giant Festival, the school's green-fingered pupils will find out who has won this year's giant pumpkin contest. The word is that previous winners, brothers Jack and Beau Mounter, will be in for some tough competition.
The Mounter boys won the inaugural 2019 contest with a 64.5kg whopper and grew an even bigger one last year, tipping the scales at a massive 92.4kg, but the 2020 contest was canned due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
Students started growing three varieties - Squash Rampicante (curly courgette), Pumpkin Musque De Provence (edible pumpkin) and Atlantic Giant - in November. Plant Zone raised the seedlings and the kids took it from there.
Prizes will be awarded for the biggest, best dressed, ugliest and curliest specimens.
The festival will run from 9am to noon at the school grounds on Hone Heke Rd.
Other attractions, apart from the pumpkin weigh-in and prizegiving, will include a garage sale, bacon buns, sausage sizzle, baking, a colouring station, raffles and secondhand uniforms, as well as a chance to check out the school's enviro gardens.
Morning tea with Mrs C
What do you do when one of your colleagues retires after 39 years in the same job?
Clearly a card or a quick whip-round won't do, especially if the colleague, Lynne Coombes, has become a local institution after almost four decades of dealing with the public.
The solution staff at Kerikeri Pharmacy came up with was to organise ''Morning Tea with Mrs C'' — and not just one morning tea, but one a day for a month with a surprise guest every time.
So each morning at 10.30am ''Mrs C'' would take a seat in a specially decorated corner of the shop while her workmates served her tea and treats and brought in another favourite customer.
''I don't have any say in it, so every day at 10.30am I have a surprise sitting there. Every day has been a lovely surprise,'' she said.
The morning teas started on January 5 and continued until her last day on January 29. Mrs C, a shop floor manager, started at the pharmacy in 1982 when it was owned by Di and Dave McFadzien and located where Fishbone Cafe is now. The business moved to its current corner location in 1989 and expanded a few years later.
''I really like being here and the people I work with. I like 99.9 per cent of my customers. It's a very nice place to be.''
She was grateful to her colleagues for the month-long send-off and to everyone who'd wished her well.
Colleague Ingrid Reed said Mrs C was known for the number of friends she'd made while working at the pharmacy, so the morning teas were both a farewell and an acknowledgement of the friendships she had struck up.
''After 39 years you can't just shake someone's hand on a Friday and send them on their way. Besides, the town wouldn't allow it. She's an institution.''
Despite being on her feet five days a week for so many years, the 77-year-old has no plans of putting her feet up.
She recently traded riding a Harley for pedalling an e-bike so she hopes to do plenty of cycling. She also plans to declutter her home and do casual work at the pharmacy.
Rock 'n' Rail at Kawakawa
The first of the annual fundraising concerts for the year hosted by the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway will be held on February 28.
The Bay of Islands Railway began life in 1864 with the discovery of coal in Kawakawa. A tramway was built four years later and horses were used to get the coal to the Kawakawa River at Taumarere.
In 1877 the track was the first railway line to be opened in the North Island. The station at Kawakawa was built in 1911 to replace the original that had been destroyed by fire and is now recognised by the Rail Heritage Trust and Far North District Council as being of significant heritage.
To maintain the railway and the station, the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway was established in the late 1980s to operate what has become a scenic tourist rail line.
At 11.5km it is one of the longest heritage railway lines in New Zealand with no fewer than 14 bridges.
With a $5.59m grant from the Provincial Growth Fund last year, the line will be extended past Taumarere and on to Opua, where it concluded historically.
The money will help store all carriages indoors, build a new engineering workshop and job training centre and install a new boiler for the vintage steam engine and locomotive, Gabriel, built in 1927 and still running through town on excursions on Friday through to Sunday.
The Bay of Islands Vintage Railway which oversees and operates and station, the line and the rolling stock, is a charitable trust run largely by volunteers. It still needs funds to continue.
The performing troupe includes The Martin Family (a string trio), Jack Tane, a popular jazz and blues musician who performs regularly in markets around the Bay of Islands, and the evergreen Windjammers swing-jazz ensemble.
Gabriel will depart Kawakawa station at 4pm and journey to Taumarere station where the concert will begin.
The train leaves Taumarere at 6.30pm and returns to Kawakawa by 7pm. The cost is $40 that includes the train ticket and a picnic box. Bring you own liquid refreshments.
Bookings essential. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
St Valentine comes to Opua
A St Valentine's Day Dance will be held at the Opua Hall on Saturday, February 13.
Organiser is Gustavo Hernandez, formerly from Palencia in northern Spain but now living in Paihia.
"You can wear the outfit with the colours you think best describe the feeling of love and the best outfit will win a prize," he said.
There's a door charge of $10 and participants will need to bring a dish for a shared potluck dinner. Start time is 6pm.
The event is family-friendly and there will be a beginner's Love Dance lesson.
Other dances include Bachata, Rumba, Salsa of all styles and Cuban Rueda.
Go Green Awards delayed
Organisers of the Far North Go Green Awards have delayed the dinner and awards announcement until the middle of the year.
Resilient Russell Charitable Trust secretary Trish Macintosh said a significant number of local people are away from the area.
"It's noticeable that many in the Bay of Islands are being tourists in their own country and in Russell we noticed a big influx of out-of-towners visiting over the summer holidays.
"It's meant that quite a few could not commit to a March date for the dinner and some weavers and sewers did not have enough time to create a costume for the recycled fashion award."
The new date for the Far North Go Green Awards is Friday, June 25. For tickets email: email@example.com, To enter the Recycled Fashion Award contact:
E: firstname.lastname@example.org P: 027 284 5021.
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