New Zealand's second Maori Governor-General says Waitangi Day means various things for different people, and is an occasion for debate, reflection and family.

At Government House in Wellington this afternoon Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae gave his first Waitangi Day address to community and government guests, including members of the diplomatic corps.

He also held a citizenship ceremony earlier in the afternoon - the first Waitangi Day reception to be held at Government House since 2006.

In his annual Waitangi Day address Lt Gen Mateparae said today, as New Zealand's national day, was a day to celebrate what it meant to be a Kiwi.


"While Waitangi Day represents different things to different people, it is first and foremost New Zealand's national day."

For New Zealanders, today was a day to look back at the "tangled roots" of the country's history, a day to discuss the significance of the Treaty and its role in a modern and independent democracy, and a day for family time.

"As our national day, it is a time when we reaffirm our commitment to the shared values that bind us together - compassion, tolerance, a strong sense of community and a Kiwi can-do attitude," he said.

The importance of today also stretched beyond New Zealand, as it also marked the day Elizabeth II became Queen in 1952, he said.

"So, as we celebrate our national day, we also mark the beginning of the celebrations to mark the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth's reign as Queen of New Zealand."

This morning Wellington's Waitangi Day celebrations kicked off when more than 65 senior diplomats gathered at the central city wharewaka Te Raukura to watch two waka glide into the nearby lagoon.