New Zealand’s founding document was signed at Waitangi Treaty Grounds in 1840. We went to the site on a wet June day, last year. There were so few visitors it felt like we had the place to ourselves.
Our tour started with Māori culture and dance, in the meeting house, Te Whare Rūnanga. The windowless space, with its high roof, its carvings and colours of red earth and wood, unsettled me slightly. It felt still – a powerful frame for a haka.
Demonstration over we splodged across to the Treaty House, home to New Zealand’s first British representative, James Busby. This had been his family home, and it felt like one, apart from the fact that the Waitangi Treaty had been signed in its ‘parlour’.
From there we dripped down to the beach to see the magnificent waka – ceremonial canoe. Carved from the wood of giant Kauri trees, it looked to me like a work of art, rather than a working canoe. I loved being able to get so close to it.
Our official tour ended at the canoe, but we decided to finish with a building we had not visited – the Te Rau Aroha ‘price of citizenship’ museum. We did not know until we went in, that it is dedicated to the Māori who served in the wars New Zealand has taken part in since 1840. The museum is engaging and detailed. We spent longer than we realised making our way around to the memorial, where name after name is listed, honouring the service of thousands.
It was a thoughtful place to end our visit.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023