The fields are a bleached straw stubble and the cows stand in them, exhausted, unmoving. It's very hot. Traffic rushes up and down the highway, logging trucks, fewer double-cab utes than everywhere else, more police cars. Northland longs for relief.
At Waitangi yesterday the PM made a speech big on rhetoric, which went down well, on the whole. They like her up here. Simon Bridges made a fool of himself, but he wouldn't have minded, too much, because he wasn't talking to the people who laughed at him.
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Winston Peters was among those who laughed, and he got up, unscheduled, to deliver a string of Bridges jokes just so he could laugh some more. Winston is possibly still feeling a little miffed that Simon won't invite him to his party.
But it was Justice and Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little who stole the show.
Little spoke only in te reo, for eight minutes and without notes. He covered work being done to strengthen iwi in education, historical preservation, economic support. In the North, he said, they had to address He Whakaputanga, the Declaration of Independence signed in 1835. "We must talk about it, we must understand it."
He was, by implication, referring to Ngapuhi's fraught treaty settlement process. An earlier speaker, Isaiah Apiata, had already called on Ardern and Bridges to have "the strength and the courage" to acknowledge the 2014 ruling by the Waitangi Tribunal, that Māori leaders in 1840 had not been told they were signing away sovereignty.
Little said, "I want to say the discussions I've had with Ngapuhi have been among the most challenging and the most rewarding of my life." He vowed to remain committed to the process.
When he finished, the waiata started and the Prime Minister came down from the porch of the whare runanga, where she had been sitting with Titewhai Harawira, gave him a hug and stood there rubbing his back while the manuhiri (visitors) sang.
The tangata whenua then sang back to him. It was a rare and extraordinary honour.
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Bridges started on the right note, observing they were gathered "in the most beautiful place in the world for the meeting of two peoples", but then he launched into a straight-out attack on the Government.
He said there was supposed to be less poverty and inequality and there wasn't because in the "year of delivery" the Government hadn't delivered anything. He appeared to endorse a call for free dentistry "for those who can't afford it", although later he backed away from that. Later, also, he called Provincial Growth Fund projects "trinkets".
It's fine to talk politics at Waitangi, everyone does it, but Bridges forgot that you're supposed to be clever with it. "Use your wit, which means intelligence," said Peters helpfully.
Use jokes, enlist the exploits of those gone before, throw down the proverbs and metaphors and let people work it out for themselves. It's called oratory, and on the pre-eminent paepae in the country, standing between the whare runanga and the Treaty House, both of them gracious old buildings dripping with history, you're supposed to aim high.
Bridges wasn't fazed. His message wasn't for the people in front of him, it was for the voters at home. And he'd decided the only way he'd even get to deliver it was if he ruffled some feather cloaks in the process.
"By our deeds you will know us," said Ardern, paraphrasing the Gospel of St Matthew, when it was her turn to speak. She listed achievements, including Māori unemployment being at its "lowest level for 10 years", the graduation of 500 new te reo teachers and 2000 Māori families moving into new state houses.
She spoke at length about "crossing the bridge", which refers to the willingness of Māori to cross over to the Pākehā world, and the need for Pākehā to make the same journey more often the other way.
Later, asked if Oranga Tamariki was a troll under the bridge, she said it was important that all sides worked together and that was happening.
But is it? Mere Mangu, Ngapuhi's new chair, had earlier spoken about Oranga Tamariki, declaring that "25 knights and dames have come here to find a way forward". In previous celebrations, one of them, Dame Naida Glavish, had been by Ardern's side. This year Glavish was down the road criticising Government inaction.
Ardern had a theme: "We are here to acknowledge the past, and challenge the present, and it is also the place to be hopeful for our future. I will keep coming back for you to challenge me, and you must continue to challenge me."
She had a refrain: "There is more mahi to do." We may hear that a lot this year.
Bridges tested his own potential campaign phrase: "We have a plan for that," he kept saying. Slightly oddly, it's the signature slogan of the progressive Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.
The very last speaker was Te Waihoroi Shortland of Ngāti Hine, a Ngapuhi subtribe. He addressed all the politicians. "You have some distance to go, crossing the bridge," he said to Bridges. "But you are in our hearts."
To Little, he said, "Two years ago you stood here like a cocky politician. You are now an example. You have shown the nation what can be done."
In the last waiata of the morning, they sang, "Do not hold on to anger, there is another day."