If you haven't been, you must. Waitangi — the place that lies at the centre of what we are as a nation, whether you are blind to the past or not.

The Treaty Grounds lie to the north of Paihia, just beyond the point where the coast road turns inward towards Kerikeri.

Past Te Tii Marae, where politicians parade on Waitangi Day and over the bridge — clearly marked with "no jumping" signs — which is a great place for bombs into the water.

Up the hill to the place where the initial signing of the Treaty of Waitangi took place.


The grounds sprawl along the Bay of Islands foreshore. Scrub and the few remaining pockets of bush surround great stretches of grass.

It is not a place for a plan, because plans need pace.

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds is not a place to rush and it's not a place for a measured approach as though reserves of energy were needed to complete it.

It's a place to immerse yourself in the beauty of the surrounds and the history of this site.

Take the day, bring the whanau along — with a picnic lunch — and lounge about as the hellions tear up and down this most historic of places.

Let your mind fall back in time and hear the sound of Hone Heke's axe bringing down the flag pole. Imagine the tall-masted ships in the bay. Wander around the enormous waka, Ngatokimatawhaorua, and imagine what it must have been like to see them cutting through the waves.

Picture the bush that covered this land before it was strip-felled for houses and ships.
The Treaty House is there — four days it took to draft the document that has caused so much anxiety and hope, frustration and grievance. Its balancing structure was built about 100 years later and sits opposite — Te Whare Rūnanga.

But for me, the most wonderful thing by far is the new Museum of Waitangi, Te Kongahu.

It will celebrate its second anniversary this year (the day after Waitangi Day) and it is an absolute treasure. Careful, considered exhibits reveal our short, shared history with its extraordinary layers. Interactive displays help peel back those layers, in many cases with a breathtaking depth and complexity.

And those who conceived of what to display had such a great feel for our story. They found and highlighted those pivots in history that make it a tale to capture an audience.

There was plenty for kids. They stopped to watch a movie, admired the images and peered intently at static displays.

But they had gone through the entire museum and circled back to find me still in the first room, caught by history.