Today, New Zealanders celebrated Waitangi Day in many places but the main events were held at the Treaty grounds in Waitangi. This is in Northland, about 3 hours drive north of Auckland.
The day before, on Tuesday 5th February, leaders held a meeting with important people to discuss matters concerning Maori. John Key, the leader of the Opposition (the National Party), attended the meeting but the Prime Minister did not because in the past she was treated rudely and pushed by protesters. The Minister of Maori Affairs attended instead. He gave a speech about the government’s policies but protesters shouted so loudly it was hard to hear what he said.
Waitangi Day celebrations began very early this morning, at 5am, with a church service. Again Helen Clark did not attend but later she held a breakfast for community leaders. After that she was taken a short distance to the Treaty grounds by a waka (Maori canoe). Nine other waka joined them. It was a beautiful sight to see.
Nearly 50,000 people attended the celebrations at Waitangi, in a day that was meant for families to enjoy. There were protesters but they behaved in a peaceful way. In the past, many protesters have been arrested on Waitangi day.
Some people do not believe Waitangi Day is for celebrating. They say that this is a day to remember the Treaty of Waitangi which was signed on February 6th 1840 between Maori chiefs and Queen Victoria. The Treaty promised Maori rights to their land and places where they got their food such as forests and the sea but Maori lost a lot of their land and other rights after that. Protesters come to Waitangi every year to remind people about the promises made in the Treaty.