Humour filled the Waitangi Treaty Grounds environs during the Parliamentarians' official welcome but more fun is in store this morning when the public joins Jacinda Ardern for a barbecue.

Te Whare Runanga on the upper marae, with birds chirping on a beautiful morning, and a cruise ship berthed in the Bay of Islands was a perfect setting for the two-hour powhiri yesterday.

Waka crews led Jacinda Ardern, flanked to her left by Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and to her left by Opposition Leader Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett to the marae as a small crowd gathered to witness proceedings from behind a cordon.

A heavy police presence as well as Māori wardens were visible in both the upper and lower marae where former National leader Don Brash spoke after the MPs powhiri.

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The powhiri was until recently held at Ti Tii Marae. It was moved over concerns the event had become a "circus" and moved to Te Whare Runanga.

Waka crews preparing to welcome politicians on to the Te Whare Runanga on the upper marae. Photo/John Stone
Waka crews preparing to welcome politicians on to the Te Whare Runanga on the upper marae. Photo/John Stone

In attendance yesterday were MPs from all political parties, including Trevor Mallard, Māori leaders and heads of government and non-government organisations.

Ardern said this was the first Waitangi Day she remembered without Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua who died from cancer last year.

"I was at Karetu Marae and sat next to him. We spoke and exchanged warm words and an embrace. Two days later, he led a march against the Government here at Waitangi.

"Perhaps that was his last message for us all. That protest was about mental health and wellbeing."

"We have more to do," was the Prime Minister's message.

We should all have an aspiration to reduce unemployment, to increase education, to remove inequality between Māori and Pakeha, she said, while speaking about her Government's achievements in tackling those issues.

"Yes, the accommodation supplement went up. Yes we've increased the number of public houses. Yes we've put in extra money n Te Puni Kokiri's Māori housing programme but there's still more to do."

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Peters had a message for Māoridom.

Winston Peters wasn't meant to speak but got to his feet with a message for Māori to be responsible if they were to succeed. Photo/John Stone
Winston Peters wasn't meant to speak but got to his feet with a message for Māori to be responsible if they were to succeed. Photo/John Stone

"Governments can do so much but Māoridom, our culture and our people need a renaissance and a revival of responsibility and purpose and we're the only ones who can do it."

He said it was very difficult in politics to not make promises but to get the money in the first place.

"You all know that politicians are famous for being fast on the lip, and very slow when it comes to the hip. The difference is we're coming having committed to getting you the money."

Opposition Leader Simon Bridges said it was good to see the Prime Minister's whanau at Waitangi and her bubba who he thought was the "best behaved" bubba he had seen on the paepae.

"I don't think there could be a better, a finer, a more perfect place for what it's a nearly 180 years ago the bringing together of two people. And people will talk about the discord at Waitangi and there's a bit of that. But actually 99 per cent of the time it's much, much better than that," he said.

Opposition Leader Simon Bridges accepts challenge from a member of the waka crews. Photo/John Stone
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges accepts challenge from a member of the waka crews. Photo/John Stone

A similar welcome ceremony at the same venue was held earlier in the day for diplomats.

"It was a really amazing experience. It was the first time here for me and my wife and we both feel very proud to be a part of such an occasion," Pakistan High Commissioner Dr Abdul Malik said.

He read a bit about the Treaty of Waitangi and said since it was the founding document on which New Zealand was built upon, it should be respected by everybody.

"The powhiri is about Māori building a relationship between other people and hongi
signifies the bond between Māori and non-Māori. I am thinking of bringing my children so they can also be a part of this occasion."

Grenenger Banda, ambassador of the small African nation of Malawi, was pleased at how well the powhiri was organised.

"I am familiar with a song that was played inside which has been translated from English to my language Chichewa back home and so I was singing along in the marae," he said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with 85-year-old Henare Hape of Whangārei, Northland's oldest Maori Warden. Photo/Peter de Graaf
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with 85-year-old Henare Hape of Whangārei, Northland's oldest Maori Warden. Photo/Peter de Graaf

Today's official programme starts with a dawn ceremony followed by the prime minister's barbecue.