As he sat at the Tupoho stall at Pākaitore/Moutoa Gardens, Whanganui's land settlement negotiations chairman Ken Mair projected the place into the future.

"This area is part of settlement negotiations and we remain pretty optimistic that it will be returned to us - without predicting the outcomes," he said.

About 400 people were at Whanganui's Pākaitore/Moutoa Gardens on February 28, to celebrate the 24th anniversary of the day in 1995 when they walked on to the small reserve and set up camp.

That occupation or reclamation spanned 79 days and became national and international news.


The day has been celebrated by Whanganui iwi ever since.

It's a time to celebrate the way Whanganui is - and because of that participant Sacha Keating wished the whole community was there.

"It's about celebrating Whanganui, the being of Whanganui, and including all the relationships is really important," he said.

He would have liked organisations to allow their staff to attend at lunchtime.

"The only way we resolve injustice or issues from the past is for everybody to participate in a solution."

Whanganui's Māori schools were out in force. There were food stalls along Taupo Quay, a gazebo for kaumātua and stalls for organisations like Ngā Tāngati Tiaki o Whanganui, Te Atawhai o Te Ao and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

Some schools brought their own flag.
Some schools brought their own flag.

Māori Research organisation Te Atawhai o Te Ao is undertaking research into how Māori experience racism, and people could spend 15 minutes to give their feedback.

It already has more than 500 responses, Rāwiri Tinirau said, most gained at Te Matatini in Wellington last week.


The aim is for 2000 responses, from all age groups. Then an advisory panel will decide how to target the resulting report.

"Hopefully it's going to impact on policy. There's not a lot being done around solutions and education," Tinirau said.

Iwi stayed the previous night at the reserve and began the day at 5am with karakia at the riverside.

After breakfast there was a pōwhiri for people who were important in the occupation and have died during the last year.

Two of them were Papa Stu Kawau, from the Tupoho kura, and Raymond Wiari. Both had been there from day one, Marilyn Kairimu-Davis said.

"It was an honour to bring both of them on together."

During the morning kohanga reo and schools paraded and performed, and food was provided by the Pākaitore Trust.

After lunch Te Taikura o Te Awa Tupua performed, followed by talk from distinguished people, talk of those memorable 79 days in 1995 and an update on progress with Treaty of Waitangi land settlements in this area.

The day was to wind up with entertainment, a clean-up for the reserve and closing karakia about 8pm.