For some Kiwis Waitangi Day simply signals one of the country's statutory holidays but for others, the meaning runs deep.

Waitangi Day is the national day of New Zealand, and commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on February 6, 1840.

We asked a number of Rotorua locals about what Waitangi means to them and if they thought Rotorua did enough to commemorate the day.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said she had long held the belief Rotorua did not do enough to mark Waitangi Day.

Advertisement

She said last year she and Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey pushed for the annual Lakeside concerts to be moved to Waitangi Day, however, for logistical reasons that wasn't possible.

Instead, she shoulder-tapped Gay Kingi, who used to run the successful Opera in the Pā concerts, and urged her to resurrect the event in time for this year's Waitangi Day.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / File
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / File

"I am the patron of Opera in the Pā and when Lakeside couldn't move the dates because of production reasons, I then mentioned it to Gay who was already trying to resurrect Opera in the Pā. They formed a little trust and away they went."

She said it was great to see the concert back as it was something the community enjoyed together.

"I have always wanted more for Waitangi Day for Rotorua and now that people know this is on, maybe there will be more."

She said the council was looking at how the city celebrated Matariki, the Māori New Year, and whether more effort should be put there or towards Waitangi Day.

She said not everyone could go to Waitangi to mark the day.

"So many can't afford to go up there. Now we have an anchor event (Opera in the Pā), let's form other stuff around that."

Advertisement

Elisha Hulton, musical director of Opera in the Pā, said it was great to be able to have the event on Waitangi Day.

"I believe it gives Rotorua people the chance to go somewhere as a community and celebrate the day together as one," Hulton said.

Elisha Hulton worked on Opera in the Pa. Photo / Stephen Parker
Elisha Hulton worked on Opera in the Pa. Photo / Stephen Parker

Rotorua police area commander Inspector Anaru Pewhairangi said Waitangi Day was an important acknowledgement of New Zealand's history and its founding document.

"I've always supported and will continue to support Te Arawa and any local initiatives that occur on Waitangi Day or any other day of significance to iwi. This is part and parcel of our partnership responsibilities together."

Rotorua police area commander Inspector Anaru Pewhairangi. Photo / File
Rotorua police area commander Inspector Anaru Pewhairangi. Photo / File

Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey said the response to Waitangi Day, was as diverse as Rotorua itself.

"I hope that our local people are becoming aware that Te Arawa never signed the Treaty, but were heavily impacted by it. I will always support the opportunity to celebrate the history of Māori in this region.

"Rather than changing our views, it is clear that we need to change our level of understanding, especially of our own history. As Pākehā and tangata whenua, we need to take every opportunity to share our journey, culture and reo, in order to strengthen our nation's future."

Waiariki Labour Party MP Tamati Coffey. Photo / File
Waiariki Labour Party MP Tamati Coffey. Photo / File

He said this year was the first time at Waitangi, that all non-Māori MPs wore earpieces which translated the whaikōrero [speeches], so that they could listen, understand and participate in tikanga Māori at the highest level.

"This focus on mutual understanding motivates me. It proves we can do better. How else can fresh-thinking make Waitangi Day more inclusive for everyone?"

Coffey said for Rotorua, he would love to see whānau-focused Māori-led events, that were kaupapa Māori.

"Waitangi Day could easily be one of the biggest days of the year for Rotorua, providing an exciting alternative for all Waiariki whānau who can't spare the time or finances to travel north for the official celebrations."

Rotorua MP Todd McClay said for most New Zealanders, Waitangi Day was a day to relax with friends and family. "It's a chance for one last swim or spot of fishing before summer starts to be over," McClay said.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay. Photo / File
Rotorua MP Todd McClay. Photo / File

"For many it is New Zealand Day. I would support any inclusive initiative local to bring families together. For Waka Village and Te Puia to open their doors to locals and visitors offering free entry would be a great start."

Rotorua-based deputy leader of New Zealand First Fletcher Tabuteau said Waitangi Day meant a lot of things to a lot of people.

"It's a chance to celebrate our beautiful country and the beautiful people in it," Tabuteau said.

NZ First deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau. Photo / File
NZ First deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau. Photo / File

"In terms of celebrating Waitangi, I think what we saw last year was a significant shift certainly from a Government perspective. This was a real day of celebration and it has been pleasing to see the same genuinely connected spirit up and down the country."

Rotorua Boys' High School head boy Te Ao Taumatangi Billing believes Waitangi Day is about partnership.

"The Treaty was done in both Māori and English," Billing said. "Our council has done a great job of pushing for Māori to be spoken in all schools. Here at Rotorua Boys' High School Māori is compulsory for all Year 9 students as a subject and most of them carry on to learn Māori for the rest of their years at the school.

Rotorua Boys' High School head boy Te Ao Taumatangi Billing. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rotorua Boys' High School head boy Te Ao Taumatangi Billing. Photo / Stephen Parker

"Views need to be changed and we need to become more educated about the Treaty. Māori people are negatively portrayed over media when all we are really doing is asking questions."

Te Ao Taumatangi said Waitangi Day should be celebrated but believed if people were more educated they would celebrate the day knowing what happened when the Treaty was signed.

"People should be sharing with their families, the things that happened on that very day. It's a controversial discussion at all times but for me, everyone should know a little bit about each article and who was involved. But a re-enactment of the treaty being signed would be awesome to see."