Hawke's Bay's community leaders, iwi and kaumatua spoke emphatically about working together for a better future with the dawning of Waitangi Day.

Ngahiwi Tomoana, Ngāti Kahungunu chairman, spoke about what the day meant to him.

"I've just spent three days at Waitangi and I got back last night. The day is about the promise of nationhood, the principles of that time and belief of that time are still alive today."

Tomoana said it was pleasing to note that Waitangi Day celebrations of late, were attracting an increasing number of Pakeha.

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A large muster enjoyed Waitangi Day in superb weather. Photo / Paul Taylor
A large muster enjoyed Waitangi Day in superb weather. Photo / Paul Taylor

"There is a rich vein of culture that has not been tapped into," he said.

"There was a dawning realisation that we have to right the boat, an get it on an even keel for Māori and Pakeha."

He expected the celebration at the free community Waitangi Day Family Celebration in Hastings at the Mitre 10 Park to attract a crowd of about 10,000 people.

"Over the years we have had between 7000 and 15,000 people turn up. It used to be 97 per cent Māori and now it's about 70 per cent Māori."

At Clive the celebrations were on a quieter but not subdued tone.

They started with an early morning hikoi (walk) starting at the Atea a Rangi Celestial Compass at Waitangi Park, followed by a haka powhiri (welcome) by local Maori and Te Aute College on the banks of the river next to Farndon Park.

The sun forced many to take shelter. Photo / Paul Taylor
The sun forced many to take shelter. Photo / Paul Taylor

The event attendees were also witness to a re-enactment of the arrival of settlers in the presence of local waka ama.

The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by three local chiefs aboard the HMS Herald in June 1840 near Waipureku, a site between the mouths of the Tukituki and Ngaruroro rivers, was the focus of the event.

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"The celebration at Clive was very quiet with strong speeches about working together from local kaumatua, leaders and iwi," Tomoana said.

"The common thread was the determination to work closer and harder together so the inequalities and disparities were eliminated."

There were three descendants of signatories present at the Clive event and they asked themselves what their forefathers would have thought of the state of the land, and the people, he said.

The answers were not positive - the land is dry, the waterways polluted and the people poor. But change was afoot.

"We work together, we can't solve everything overnight but we start by working together.

"We would be an 'unstoppable force' if we work together."

Hastings District Council Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst, who attended both events, said Waitangi Day was a "great day" to be a New Zealander and was a time for reflection.

"It's a day to reflect on the values and importance of the Treaty, it's about how we live our lives today and in the future," Hazlehurst said.

"We also acknowledged the importance of the Treaty's principles of participation, partnership and protection, principles so relevant today. And the day gave us a chance to track on how we are progressing."

Every year on February 6, New Zealand marks the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

Representatives of the British Crown and more than 500 Maori chiefs signed what is often considered to be New Zealand's founding document. The day was first officially commemorated in 1934, and it has been a public holiday since 1974.

And how are we, as a region progressing?

"There are things we need to work on and stuff we are working on including seeing ways to provide more opportunities for youth and cleaning up our waterways."

She said it was great to see the community come together to celebrate and reflect on the day.