New Plymouth's only Māori councillor says only a Pākehā could have led the peace hikoi which ended at Parihaka yesterday.
The peace walk was a reaction to the abuse that New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd attracted after attempting to establish a Māori ward on council.
Howie Tamati said the fact the hikoi was lead by a Pākehā mayor who admitted he was ignorant of things Māori and wanted to change made a huge difference.
"To have something that was led by Andrew is a great thing because we [Māori] have been saying the same thing as Andrew for many, many years but no one's listening because it's just Māori voices saying the same things."
Mr Tamati, who would be standing down after the local body elections in October, said the hikoi was an important milestone in Māori and Pākehā relations in New Zealand.
More than 500 people joined Mr Judd on the final stage of the three-day hikoi, which arrived at its destination after three days and 44km amid tears, wailing and karakia.
Mr Judd said he had been spat at and verbally abused in front of his children for championing the proposal, which was rejected in a referendum.
But Mr Judd said this week's peace hikoi to Parihaka achieved what it set out to do, and an annual event could be on the cards.
He said the 500-strong group that arrived in Parihaka got a mind-blowing and moving welcome.
Mr Judd said the hikoi had encouraged the conversation about race relations in Aotearoa, and there had been some discussion about making it an annual event.
"We have toyed with the idea of annually, in some way shape or form, and actually to get it throughout the country, where all mayors get involved, or civic leaders, or school leaders or church leaders, where we come together and make a stand for peace and inclusion."
Parihaka was the centre of passive resistance to the Crown in the mid-1800s. After the settlement was sacked in 1881, the leaders of the peace movement were illegally jailed in the South Island and the Chatham Islands.