It was a day of pride and celebration at Waitangi on Friday as a daughter of the North was formally welcomed as the first wahine Māori Governor-General of New Zealand.
Whangārei-born Dame Cindy Kiro, who is of Ngāti Hine and Ngāpuhi nui tonu descent, was to have been welcomed at the Treaty Grounds as part of Waitangi Day commemorations but Covid put paid to that.
When the chance came at last to welcome the Queen's representative on home soil it was on a date of equal significance, Ngāti Hine leader Waihoroi Shortland said.
May 13 was the date the last northern chief signed the Treaty of Waitangi — and that was Kiro's ancestor, Te Ruki Kawiti.
"So we chose this day very deliberately. It's a great honour for Te Taitokerau," he said.
The new Governor-General was special in that she was descended from a Treaty signatory but also represented the Queen, making her the embodiment of both parties to the Treaty.
"These two sides, tangata Tiriti (the people of the Treaty) and tangata whenua (the people of the land), reside in one person. How unique is that? And how unique that it should be someone from the North," Shortland said.
"In this personage we are being given an opportunity ... not to change things, not to be divisive, but to reset our future history."
Kiro, her husband Richard Davies and extended family were welcomed to the Treaty Grounds with three challenges and a rousing haka pōwhiri by Ngā Tira Taua o Te Taitokerau, a collective of waka paddlers, mau rākau exponents and kura students drawn from across the North.
Unusually, it was members of Ngāpuhi who escorted her to Te Whare Rūnanga (the carved meeting house), where she was seated with the Māori King Tūheitia Paki and other iwi leaders from around the country.
Speakers included Isaiah Apiata (Ngāti Kawa/Ngāti Rahiri), Defence Minister Peeni Henare, Tainui orator Rahui Papa, and Ngāti Hine leaders Shortland and Pita Tipene, to name a few.
Dame Cindy herself spoke of her mixed heritage and the pride she felt that a Māori woman with a humble background could become Governor-General.
"I understand the unique position I occupy as a Queen's representative and as an uri (descendant) of Ngāti Hine and Ngāpuhi nui tonu (wider Ngapuhi). Over the next four and a half years I will strive to be a Governor-General true to all aspects of who I am," she said.
More than three hours of formalities ended with Kiro planting a pōhutukawa, a tradition observed by all incoming Governors-General.
In the days leading up to the welcome, there had been controversy about the plan to have Ngāpuhi escort Kiro onto the Treaty Grounds and seat leaders of another iwi on the taumata, which is normally reserved for prominent members of the home people.
Shortland, however, argued Te Whare Rūnanga was "a marae for the motu" built for all iwi. Friday's ceremony also reflected the Governor-General's role as a representative of all people.
Taitokerau Māori welcomed Kingi Tūheitia and iwi leaders to Waitangi in a separate pōwhiri on Thursday evening, which ensured they could sit on the taumata alongside Ngāpuhi on Friday.
Later, Kiro said the welcome had been "incredibly humbling, incredibly moving, and incredibly powerful".
"I feel so connected to Taitokerau because I am from here."
She had been pleased to see the various hapū of Ngāpuhi, and other iwi, come together to host the event.
It was also "very special" to have King Tuheitia present, while Waikato's choice of a Ngāpuhi song was "a real gesture of peace".
Kiro said she did not feel tension from being both Māori and the Crown's representative.
"I live with that duality every day of my life. I know there will be lots of debates and I look forward to people having them."
Asked about the legacy she wanted to leave, she said she hoped to inspire other people from humble backgrounds to work their way into positions where they could contribute to a unified country and a stronger sense of nationhood — as well as having difficult, but necessary, conversations.
"If I can do that I will consider myself successful."
Kiro, who is New Zealand's 22nd Governor-General, arrived in Northland on Thursday for a welcome at her home marae of Motatau, near Kawakawa.
She is the fourth woman, the third person of Māori descent, and the first Māori woman in the role.
She has previously served as Children's Commissioner and held a range of public health, social policy, academic and leadership roles.