An Auckland tribe which pulled out of hosting a public Waitangi Day celebration on February 6 will still get to use the $70,000 ratepayer subsidy for the event - on St Patrick's Day.

Ngati Whatua o Orakei wants to use the money instead to celebrate the iwi's signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

The date chosen for the celebration at Bastion Pt, Orakei, is March 17 - the same day as the annual St Patrick's Day Festival, which draws 30,000 people to the CBD.

Auckland Council member Cameron Brewer says the council is throwing away money.


"I'm not necessarily against public money to support a Waitangi Day event but $70,000 to celebrate it more than five weeks later - on St Patrick's Day - is ridiculous.

"It's not even like it's a milestone year like a 150th anniversary; this year marks 172 years and frankly it has been and gone and there will be another opportunity next year."

The Waitangi Day family fun-style event at Okahu Bay drew up to 30,00 people in the four years it was produced in a partnership between iwi and Auckland City Council.

The council budget provided $70,000 - about half the cost - and Ngati Whatua o Orakei Corporate was contracted to find sponsorships for the rest and to produce the event.

However, on January 11 the iwi pulled out, saying it followed too closely on the heavy commitment by Ngati Whatua o Orakei Maori Trust Board to last year's Rugby World Cup.

The Ngati Whatua contribution included $100,000 of the $2 million cost of the giant plastic Waka Maori, which had an 11-day season at Viaduct Harbour.

This absorbed both energy and time to arrange additional sponsorship for the Waitangi Day event but the board said it would consider a later celebration in March.

Council culture, arts and events forum chairman Alf Filipaina said the forum's approval of funding was on the understanding that the money had been set aside for the event with Ngati Whatua as hosts.


"It's the same contract and money earmarked for assistance they have always had.

"They have asked to use it in the way they wish to celebrate, which is around the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by Ngati Whatua.

"It will be a family day at Bastion Pt, where they signed it."

Mr Filipaina said the provision in the regional events budget was made by the former Auckland City Council - just as the former Manukau City Council had done for its Waitangi Day celebrations.

The Toi o Manukau event held at Sir Barry Curtis Park drew 40,000 people and was believed to be second in size to the annual event in Northland.

Ratepayers gave $100,000 towards the Manukau event.

Mr Filipaina said any budget provision for future Waitangi Day events would be decided next month.

A Ngati Whatua spokesman said getting the council's approval was an important step in the organisation of the Bastion Pt event.

An official update on its progress would come next week when work to get sponsorship and entertainment acts was more advanced.

The council does not give cash to the St Patrick's Day Festival.