We were excited to get to spend Waitangi Day in New Zealand and see a celebration while traveling around. We attended the largest celebration in the South Island, held outside of Christchurch in Okains Bay at the Maori and Colonial Museum. Unfortunately, we were pretty underwhelmed with the events. There were so many people for a small space, that I often couldn’t see any of the activities going on.
First, we watched the opening ceremonies, where representatives from the New Zealand Navy gave a speech to the Maori representatives in attendance. Then, they greeted each other with hongi, a traditional Maori greeting where the two persons press their foreheads and noses together.
We wandered around the museum, learning about the colonization of Okains Bay – there were A LOT of artifacts. There were also booths of vendors selling goods like jade necklaces and fudge. There was a 100 year old steam engine running, plus a wood cutting competition.
We tried to view the lifting of the hāngī (food buried underground with hot stones to cook it) and the waka paddling, but the crowds were too big to really see anything. I was able to get a couple of photos by holding my camera up.
Unfortunately we waited an hour in line for the hāngī and when we got to the food they were out of forks and the vegetables. Our plate was mostly meat (pork and beef) with a small, undercooked potato.
The event was really cheap – $10 per person for entrance and another $10 for the meal. I would have gladly paid more money for a better experience. Since we didn’t get the cultural experience I wanted, we are considering buying tickets to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds Hungi and Concert back up in the Northland area.