Thousands gather for Waitangi dawn service

People gathered at Te Whare Rūnanga for the Waitangi dawn service.

Rain jackets and umbrellas replaced yesterday's sun hats and fans at Waitangi this morning.

Thousands gathered for a dawn service to mark the signing of the Treaty, 183 years ago today.

A more subdued and ceremonial affair than yesterday's parliamentary pōwhiri, a peaceful and spiritual atmosphere descended on the service as the skies brightened and cleared closer to first light, about 6.20am.

The ceremony was initiated by former prime minister Dame Jenny Shipley in the 1990s.

A series of karakia (prayers) were read, including by Waitangi Trust chairman Pita Tipene, Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro and Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

Dr Shane Reti represented the National opposition, and David Seymour from the ACT party also spoke, along with senior public servants such as Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann and Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier.

Tipene said the trust existed to "illustrate the ongoing promise of Waitangi to the world".

Acknowledging Covid-19's disruption to the event, he said he had attended Waitangi last year with his mokopuna.

He said no one else was there and they conducted a karakia in everyone's absence.

Te Rūnanga a iwi o Ngāpuhi's Phoebe Davis said the day was to remember the "covenant" entered into by Māori and Pākehā on February 6, 1840.

Hipkins said people gathered on the spot to "do something very bold" in 1840 and it was with a view to increase trust in one another and bring "unity and common purpose".


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