It was a Waitangi Day of two distinct styles.

At the Treaty Grounds it was quiet, restrained and well-ordered, marked by a sermon from a Government Minister.

Down at Te Tii Marae it was loud, fun and all about the whanau. Speaking there was evangelical royalty, Bishop Brian Tamaki.

And people moved easily between the two, walking up and down the road and across the bridge that separates the marae from the Treaty Grounds.


It was a relaxed family affair, with no sign of the disquiet that has sometime marred the day in previous years.

At the dawn of what turned into a hot and cloudless day, crowds gathered at both sites for early morning ceremonies.

At Te Tii a flag-raising and roll call of Treaty signatories kicked off events there while at Te Whare Rūnanga on the Treaty Grounds, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and a huge contingent of MPs and officials, including the Prime Minister of Samoa Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi attended the dawn ceremony there.

Yesterday marked the 179th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and numbers seemed to up on previous years.

Waka arrive at Te Tii Bay. Photo / Michael Craig
Waka arrive at Te Tii Bay. Photo / Michael Craig

The town of Paihia was packed with pilgrims and tourists, many arriving in the days leading up to Waitangi Day.

Traffic was at a standstill for much of the day going into Paihia and Destiny Church's Tu Tangata riders and others roared up and down the main strip all day.

Ardern spoke briefly at this morning's service and told the Herald afterwards that she hoped that every New Zealander would get to enjoy Waitangi Day with the current atmosphere.

One onlooker said it was the first time they could remember the ceremony proceeding without any signs of protest.


Following the early morning ceremony it was the moment many had been looking for, Government ministers joining Ardern in donning aprons and arming themselves with tongs to cook a breakfast barbecue.

It is something started last year instead of the previous formal invitation-only breakfast at the nearby Copthorne Hotel.

Waka are welcomed to Te Ti Bay, Waitangi. Photo / Michael Craig
Waka are welcomed to Te Ti Bay, Waitangi. Photo / Michael Craig

The only line that was longer than the queue for eggs, sausages, bacon and bread rolls was the line for coffee, even with two machines and four baristas going flat-tack.

Ardern had been due to visit waka crews coming ashore at nearby Te Tii beach but cancelled at late notice due to logistical reasons, according to a spokesman.

The crowd thinned considerably at the Treaty Grounds following Ardern's departure.

It began regrouping in front of the whare from about 9.30am in anticipation of the traditional interdenominational church service, and a sermon by New Zealand First MP and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

As reasonably good self-promoter (think First Citizen of the Provinces), it was down to Jones to draw a good turnout in direct competition with Tamaki, who was speaking at the same time at Te Tii Marae.

He didn't disappoint, turning up in a white jacket and armed with considerable knowledge of scripture, Māori history and his aspirations for the country.

A Navy guard marches on to the Treaty Grounds. Photo / Michael Craig
A Navy guard marches on to the Treaty Grounds. Photo / Michael Craig

But Tamaki, who had hinted at a big announcement in a teasing tweet ahead of Waitangi Day, also did not disappoint, revealing a potential revival of his political aspirations.

While Jones quoted the New Testament, warning against building a house on the sand in the form of "throaty loud motorcycles", Tamaki had a warning of his own – change was coming.

Tamaki said the Destiny Church-linked Tu Tangata ManUp programme could have a future in politics.

"I think there's a better way. Who knows what the future holds."

Tamaki's sermon held a theme of renewal and change, and of how the arrival of Europeans didn't only bring the Treaty of Waitangi but bright Christianity.

He spoke of "house Māoris" who he called "spuds".

"Brown on the outside and white on the inside. They're the Māori that like position, that like cuddling politicians.

Jacinda Ardern and ministers of her coalition Government cook a barbecue breakfast. Photo / Michael Craig
Jacinda Ardern and ministers of her coalition Government cook a barbecue breakfast. Photo / Michael Craig

"Right now, I tell you I'm a field n*****. From this day forward, there is a new breed of Maori rising up."

Jones, in contrast, harked back to the past as a way for the country to move forward, touching on the solid foundation of a house built on rock.

"Blasted by the wind, afflicted by floods, drenched with rain, but the house still stands," he said.

"And the challenge as we prepare to celebrate 180 years (since the Treaty was signed), what is the content of that cornerstone, of that foundation stone for you and I, respecters of the Treaty, lovers of our heritage and believers in the future?

"It will be no Wall of Jericho, with the throaty loud sounds of motorbikes. It will be no trumpets. The voices of din will not smash the traditions that we hold dear traceable back to the Treaty of Waitangi."

By this time next year, as New Zealand marks that milestone, the country will be turning into the home stretch before a general election - an election which could include a Destiny Church-based political party making big promises for Māori.