6 Feb 2011

Numbers down at Waitangi

7:27 pm on 6 February 2011

Numbers at Waitangi to mark the signing of the Treaty on 6 February 1840, are significantly down on previous gatherings for the national day.

The Waitangi National Trust estimates more than 20,000 people have attended the 171st commemorations at the site.

Last year 35,000 people turned up, and the Trust had been expecting up to the record number of 46,000 to visit this Waitangi Day.

The day began with a pre-dawn prayer service and hundreds of people attended an open air service at 10am.

Crowds lined the beach for a display by the waka fleet.


There were eight waka taua, paddling in formation around the voyaging waka Te Aurere and saluting master waka builder and navigator Hekenukumai Busby.

Speaking at the grounds on Sunday morning, Prime Minister John Key noted the attendance decrease, urging New Zealanders to return to Waitangi and not be put off by protest action.

A small protest was staged at Te Tii Marae on Saturday and on Sunday afternoon the annual protest hikoi involving about 100 people moved through the Treaty grounds.

The protesters walked on to the grounds, stopping in front of the wharenui, Te Whare Runanga, before circling the meeting house.


Waitangi National Trust Board chairperson Pita Paraone says protests this time have been quiet.

He says the protests this year have been confined to words rather than physical actions which is a good thing.

Mr Paraone says despite the drop in numbers the day of commemoration has been successful.