20 Dec 2021

Ngāi Tahu cancels Waitangi Day commemorations over Covid-19 concerns

2:20 pm on 20 December 2021

Ngāi Tahu in Te Waipounamu has cancelled its Waitangi Day commemorations for February to help protect the region from Covid-19 exposure.

Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere (director) Lisa Tumahai opens the Climate Change Symposium.

Lisa Tumahai says she is disappointed but safety of whānau is the priority. Photo: Supplied / Ngāi Tahu

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai said it was a difficult decision but due to Covid-19 restrictions the iwi believed it was in the best interest of its whānau.

"Waitangi Day commemorations are traditionally held around our takiwā by our 18 Papatipu Rūnanga at marae," Tumahai said.

"Pōwhiri and cultural customs such as hongi are integral to the commemorations, and it would be too difficult to safely manage manuhiri and whānau numbers."

There are no live stream events plans but they will mark Waitangi Day in some way.

"Although I'm disappointed our iwi can't meet kanohi ki te kanohi for Waitangi Day, our main priority is that whānau stay safe and well. I look forward to commemorating Waitangi Day as a whānau in 2023," Tumahai said.

The Waitangi National Trust decided to cancel in-person events for Waitangi Day during Waitangi Week next year, because it would be unable to safely host the 40,000 manuhiri under the Covid-19 Protection Framework.

"Just under 80 percent of whānau Māori within Aotearoa are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19," she said.

"Although we have experienced few community cases so far in Te Waipounamu compared to our extended whānau in Te Ika a Māui, we must remain vigilant in protecting the health and safety of our whānau while this virus continues to spread around the motu.

"As New Zealanders travel for Kirihimete and their summer holidays, there is a higher chance more cases of Covid-19 will turn up in the Ngāi Tahu takiwā.

"We're continuing to urge our whānau to get vaccinated if they haven't already, to protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus.

"Our Ngāi Tahu whānau are strong and resourceful, and I'm proud of the way so many are protecting the future of our iwi by getting vaccinated."