Iwi from around Te Hiku o Te Ika and dignitaries including Dame Naida Glavish turned out in support of the re-opening of Te Rerenga Wairua on Friday. And shortly after the ceremony took place a stream of campervans and tourists' vehicles queued to make their way to Te Rēinga.
Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi said the re-opening of access had been conducted in the appropriate manner.
"Te Rerenga Wairua remains a significant taonga to us all, as Māori and New Zealanders alike," he said.
"It connects us culturally and spiritually to our homeland, Hawaiki, across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean), and with one another through our whakapapa origin and history as a people."
Now a major South Pacific tourism destination, Te Rerenga Wairua marked the point along the ancient pathway Te Ara Wairua, where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific meet. In Māori tradition, Te Ara Wairua was the spiritual pathway Māori travelled on their return to Hawaiiki, including the length of Te Oneroa a Tõhē, 90 Mile Beach, from Ahipara.
"Visible just north from this sacred place is Manawatāwhi, the Three Kings Islands," Piripi said.
"Meaning 'Last breath,' it is said that Manawatāwhi is the place where those passing through stop to take one last look at Aotearoa.
Hau kainga at Ngāti Kuri have acted superbly as kaitiaki, reminding us how special and unique these important places and aspects of our culture really are," he added.
"As Ngāti Kuri hit the reset button at this iconic international destination, they've marked a key moment in our time, fulfilling an ancient rite to care for taonga the way our culture embraces."
Ngāti Kuri Trust Board chairman Harry Burkhardt said last week that the "small but significant ceremony" would reaffirm Te Rerenga Wairua as a wāhi tapu (place of spiritual significance).
Ngāti Kuri staff and whānau had spent the previous two weeks working alongside the Department of Conservation and the NZ Transport Agency to check tracks, camp grounds, toilets and water supplies to prepare the area ready for the return of visitors.
While the government had lifted the number of people permitted at gatherings to 100 as of noon on Friday, in the interest of public safety the re-opening would be limited to a small pōwhiri and ceremony for iwi and partners, although that had not deterred a large crowd from gathering for the occasion.
The event was also livestreamed for those who could not be there.
"It has been no small task ensuring this place is safe for people to access," Burkhardt added.
"The restricted access to Te Rerenga Wairua has been very much a practical response as a spiritual one.''
Ngāti Kuri owned much of the land around the Cape, and had had a co-governance arrangement with DOC over Te Paki Reserve conservation land since a Treaty settlement in 2015.
The camp grounds at Tapotupotu and Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) were closed on March 20, with the gate across State Highway 1 at Te Werahi closed five days later, at the beginning of the lockdown.
The road closure attracted some controversy, Northland MP Matt King making headlines when he tried to visit the Cape on a family outing and confronted the Ngāti Kuri crew manning the gate. NZ First MP Shane Jones also criticised the closure, saying Māori spiritual beliefs had been distorted to justify political actions.