6 Feb 2012

Waitangi Day ends with Navy beat retreat

5:13 pm on 6 February 2012

The Navy's beat retreat ceremony has marked the official closing of commemorations at Waitangi to mark the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi 172 years ago.

In a ceremony dating back hundreds of years, the White Ensign has been lowered in front of a 100-strong navy guard, along with the navy band, signalling the end of another Waitangi Day.

A large crowd has been entertained on and around the treaty grounds all day in what has been a largely peaceful Waitangi Day.

Protesters have, however, been present at the Treaty Grounds.

A protest hikoi of about 60 people came onto the Treaty Grounds at about 11am and competed with a Maori cultural group performing under the flagstaff.

And, just before 2pm, about 200 people made their way across the bridge at Waitangi on what has become an annual hikoi to the Treaty grounds.

Chanting and carrying flags and protest signs, they assembled at the flagpole.

The protesters spent about an hour listening to speakers and after heated discussions with Maori wardens, they were allowed to cross the cordon and in a symbolic action, touch the flagstaff.


A Radio New Zealand News reporter at Waitangi says this year's protest has been given more focus because of the concerns of some Maori that the government is ignoring its treaty obligations with its plan to partially sell some state assets.

Those taking part in the hikoi were also protesting against deep sea oil drilling.

Prayer service starts the day

About 1000 people crowded outside the carved meeting house at the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi for the traditional pre-dawn prayer service led by Ngapuhi elders on Monday, marking the start of official celebrations marking New Zealand's national day.

Amid a strong security presence, Prime Minister John Key and Labour Party leader David Shearer offered prayers for the nation inside the meeting house.

Mr Key says Waitangi Day is peaceful day for New Zealanders to reflect on the Treaty of Waitangi and the birth of the nation.

He gave thanks that New Zealand is peaceful, prosperous and plentiful and for the Queen's 60-year reign, which is being celebrated this year.

Mr Shearer attended his first Waitangi Day service and offered a prayer that Waitangi Day would be a time to celebrate being New Zealanders.

He says Waitangi Day is too often focused n the negative when it should be a day of celebration, not of protest and grievance.

He says he would like to see the honours list come out on Waitangi Day, rather than New Year's Day or Queen's Birthday weekend.

Both leaders acknowledged those who lost loved-ones in the devastating Christchurch earthquake in February last year.

The service ended as the sun rose with a lone piper playing under the flagstaff where Ngapuhi chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand's founding document, on 6 February 1840.

An open air church service was also held on Hobson's Beach.


Then it was time for the launch of 14 waka, led by the might war canoe Nga Toki Matawhaorua, from Te Tii Beach.

The crowd cheered and applauded as the canoes, carrying about 200 people, entered the sea.

There was a minor hiccup when one small waka was swamped not far from the shore and had to be towed back to land.

A 21-gun salute was held at midday, but a planned aerobatic display by the RNZAF precision flying team the Red Checkers has been cancelled.

The focus at Waitangi then shifted from politics to fun family events in the afternoon.

While security has been heavy over the last few days here, Radio New Zealand News reporters say it has been unobtrusive, allowing the crowds who came for the day to have a relaxed time.

Family events in Auckland and Dunedin

About 40 thousand people turned out for the largest Waitangi Day celebration in the Auckland region.

They gathered at Barry Curtis Park in Flat Bush, South Auckland, to hear some of New Zealand's most popular musicians including Maisey Rika, Ardijah, Bella Kalolo and David Dallas and sample some of the food on offer, including mussel and whitebait fritters.

The day was rounded off with a performance by reggae band Katchafire.

In Dunedin, about 200 people joined a community picnic concert in the city's central Octagon at lunchtime to celebrate the day and express support for the Treaty.

It was the first event of its kind for several years and the organisers say they are pleased with the turnout.