Today was another early start, an early start followed by a drive of three hours north from Auckland, in order to visit the place I have been planning to visit for a few days now. Today was the day when I visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on the 6th of February, 1840.
That day significantly changed the understanding of New Zealand for both the Maori peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand, and those from other parts of the world – particularly from Great Britain – who were already here or who would come afterwards.
The drive north, though long, was a very pleasant drive through some very spectacular scenery. If I hadn’t been driving, and there hadn’t been quite so much traffic, I might have stopped frequently to take some photographs of scenery that is both similar and yet radically different to that which you might find in Australia. The difference is largely the flora and obvious climatic differences; the similarities are in terms of the preponderance of farms and villages and undulating roads.
The three hour drive seemed to fly by – largely thanks to the podcasts on the phone – and soon I was pulling up at the entrance of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Walking in, and be greeted by the staff member at the front desk, after the drive was quite a relief. A bigger relief came when the pre-booked day pass I ordered online last week was ‘waiting’ for me.
I timed my arrival quite well. The guided tour that was part of the day pass was about 30 minutes from starting, and so I had the opportunity to refresh myself, and walk around a bit before embarking on said tour. Again I lucked out because the group for the tour consisted of myself and a couple from Christchurch. The three of us had our tour guide, Dan, to ourselves, and this allowed for a more interactive experience than might have been had there been more in the group. Dan is a local, both in terms of his Maori heritage and his place of birth, which means his knowledge of the Treaty Grounds and the surrounding area is superb. He’s also very jovial and entertaining so the tour, which lasts around an hour, seemed to fly on buy.
The beauty of the tour, for me at least, is that the area that we walked was put into perspective before I went to look at the various displays and exhibits. This meant that looking through the displays and exhibits, some of which had already been referenced by Dan, made much more sense when I did look at them.
I can’t help thinking though that, unlike Australia, the Treaty of Waitangi was a more appropriate means of establishing the relationship between Maori and Pakeha. In a similar way to Australia, however, the Treaty wasn’t always honoured, and there have been many instances of breaches down through the year. The process of recognising and rehabilitating those breaches is well underway, and is being undertaken on the basis of the Treaty of Waitangi. Having something to which the nation can return in the face of the breakdown of relationship is certainly a much better process than having to resort to civil legal action – at least in the opinion of this outsider. It is a shame that Australia doesn’t have a treaty or similar document to which it can return.
A delightful and light lunch in the cafe was followed by an exploration of the Treaty Grounds under my own steam, taking time to linger at the various places that were of significance and absorbing the history of the place. Several wonderfully pleasant hours later I started the road trip back to Auckland, a trip that seemed to be longer than the drive up. Funny about that, but it just have been the time of day.
I have a sneaking suspicion I will sleep well tonight.