Seated on the porch of the meeting are Governor General Dame Cindy Kiro and Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. Alongside them are Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann, Commissioner of Police Andrew Coster, Chief of Navy David Proctor, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier and chairman of the Waitangi Trust Pita Tipene.
Local MP and new government minister Willow Jean Prime got the job of holding an umbrella for Dame Cindy.
National’s Shane Reti has joined Hipkins and others on the porch of the whare.
The pre-dawn silence was broken only by prayer from those leading the service at the whare – and an early rising tui sounding off. Although from somewhere in the still-dark came a morning blast from a lone piper.
While overnight rain threatened to make this morning’s service a damp one, the weather lifted as people started to arrive.
“Probably the duty of the church now is to pray for fine weather,” quipped Bishop Te Kitohi Pikaahu, who is leading the service.
The Māori Anglican Bishop of Tai Tokerau acknowledged New Zealand’s first female Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley, who is among the crowd, for initiating the dawn karakia in the 1990s.
Pita Tipene opened the service with words of welcome and encouragement for those present to think ahead to the double centenary in 2040.
Te Runanga a iwi o Ngapuhi Phoebe Davis delivered a powerful message to the crowd: “Hold before us the words at Waitangi signed by Māori and Pakeha alike in 1840 to confirm their covenant.”
Far North Mayor Moko Tepania spoke a verse in Te Reo, Ta te Atua Tiaki.
It is an important moment for Tepania, who made history last year as the first Māori mayor of the Far North and today marks his first Waitangi Dawn Ceremony in the role.
Hipkins’ prayer was short and simple – it called for an increase in knowledge and trust between those living in New Zealand, and for unity.
Shane Reti, speaking for National leader Chris Luxon, followed as he read from the Book of Mormon a passage that also urged unity. Act’s David Seymour offered prayers for prosperity – although he would be happy with affordability – and short speeches from politicians.
MP for Takanini Dr Neru Leavasa’s prayer in Samoan remembered those who had died in the recent flooding event, as well as the families in mourning. There was a special prayer for today’s events at Waitangi and a call for the unity of all peoples.
Chief of Navy David Proctor gave thanks to those who had made New Zealand their home with a prayer its people would “move together as one nation into our shared future”.
Police commissioner Andrew Coster’s prayer reflected the difficult past few years and a hope for “healing and restoration “.
A kaumātua disrupted the service with words of protest. He was pulled away by police who moved to block media from videoing.
Before the was removed from outside the marae, he demanded the national anthem be sung. To which the speaker on stage advised him it was going to be sung later.
The man was removed by security after standing to speak in a move that disrupted the dawn ceremony.
The man who described himself as an 82-year-old returned serviceman told those pulling him away that he “would have them” if he was a younger man.
The crowd burst into waiata to drown his words out but even as those gathered sang Whakaaria Mai, his protesting and shouting could still be heard.
A single acoustic guitar provided the only musical backdrop to the voices of those on and outside the marae as they, led by the Salvation Army, sang God Defend New Zealand.
PM’s hopes for future Waitangi Day
Speaking to media after the ceremony, Hipkins said he has found Waitangi Day to be a “positive experience” during his political career. The highlight for him this year, however, was the waka trip.
“I like to think when we are back here in 2040 to celebrate 200 years we’ll have a lot to be proud of,” he said.
Not only did he share his thoughts on Waitangi commemorations, but he also touched on his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese later this week.
“I think we’re going to get on well.”