The Prime Minister's prayer this morning at the Waitangi Day dawn service drew heavily on a 172-year-old saying.

The atmosphere at the Treaty ground's whare runanga where the service is held was a world away from yesterday's tension.

Instead Kiwis, politicians such as Labour's David Shearer, church ministers, Navy personnel and iwi leaders packed the whare and the forecourt.

Every year the non-denomenational service asks political leaders to share a prayer.


Mr Key asked that New Zealanders "me mahi tahi tatou katoa...we should all work together for the betterment of New Zealand," shading Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson's "he iwi kotahi tatou [we're all one]" which was said at the signing of the Treaty.

It was a friendly, warm service where the Labour leader David Shearer was jokingly invited by Ngapuhi kaumatua John Komene to "come and shear all of your sheep, shear it with prayer."

Mr Shearer joked back: "I think [the Maori word is] kutikuti."

A Waitangi Dawn service wouldn't be complete however, without at least one enigmatic speaker.

After the service proper had finished but while people were still inside the runanga a man - who had a voice like John Rowles and used it to good effect - told those gathered that he wanted to pay tribute to women.

"I give you my absolute...and highest tribute."

It was an odd offering and one Maori woman in the crowd grinned and joked: "Well done women."

The only spot of ugliness came when a lone protestor yelled "kupapa" - an insult historically leveled at those who sided with the government during the land wars - at Titewhai Harawira as she was wheeled out of the whare's grounds.


Police held him back, but it was only a small marring of the proceedings.

Afterwards, Mr Key said the mood was peaceful.

"Well I always think the actual day of Waitangi is a very peaceful day, it's a family day, it's a chance for people to reflect on the fact that we are a nation that came together by signing a treaty in a peaceful way...I think it's a great chance just to be thankful actually for New Zealand - the great country it is and the opportunity it provides."

"I know that for hopefully all New Zealanders today they'll have an opportunity to reflect how lucky we are as a country and what the future might hold for us."