Waitangi Day festival events are going to be “really stepped up this year” after a hiatus due to Covid restrictions.
In 2022, Waitangi events didn’t happen at the Treaty Grounds, and it was all virtual taking place on TV.
Waitangi project manager Lara Thorne said the break gave the Waitangi team and the organisations involved the opportunity to reflect and think about what Waitangi Day looks like from all perspectives such as the entertainment, health and safety and manaakitanga (hospitality).
She said this year will include a “phenomenal level of talent unlike any other year we’ve seen”.
The “amazing lineup” includes local artists Troy Kingi, Don McGlashan, MOHI, Melodownz, Hātea Kapa Haka and Paige.
Another change in 2023 will see all ceremonial aspects held outside instead of inside Te Whare Rūnanga, the meeting house on the Treaty Grounds, where the national service is held.
Thorne said this would help improve health and safety, but would also be more inclusive of the general public since there’s more space to watch in person.
“Just the nature of the grounds and it being outside, we felt that there’s so much space for people to be,” she said.
“So people who need to be in their own environment, there are so many opportunities for that if they want to keep to themselves.”
Regarding Covid safety, Thorne said there would be plenty of hand sanitiser available, and although there were no requirements to wear masks, people could wear them if they wanted to.
Local businesses prepare for Waitangi visitors
Nary Hok of the Paihia Bakery Espresso was looking forward to Waitangi Day and welcoming back customers.
The visiting cruise ships were already making Paihia busy, with some people lining up from 5am to get their coffees at the bakery.
She said during Waitangi the numbers were normally in the thousands, which is a lot more compared to around 300 people a day during off-peak times.
“It will be challenging being back,” she said.
“We just have to deal with it, if it’s busy we just deal with.”
She said they would do their best to make sure they have enough stock and access to suppliers – especially when it comes to selling their most popular items which were the pies and doughnuts.
But for local establishment Zane Grey’s Restaurant & Bar, they were expecting “just another long weekend,” said owner and director Anthony Pivac.
“Our cruise ships are back … that makes a bigger difference than the Kiwi anniversary holidays,” he said. “They’re good weekends, but we don’t have to prepare anything extra or special for it.”
Normally during Waitangi weekend, the restaurant would be fully booked by an iwi or government department, but this year Waitangi Day delegates were just staying up at Waitangi grounds which is the only difference for the restaurant this year.
“It’ll probably be busy, but I can’t see it being any different to any other year,” Pivac said.
Countdown Waitangi store manager Wayne Baatjies said the supermarket was looking forward to welcoming visitors to Waitangi.
He said preparations were under way to make sure they could provide locals and visitors “the very best experience we can”, which included making sure they had enough stock.
Waitangi’s Thorne said it was hard to estimate how many visitors to expect at Waitangi, but it could be anywhere between 20,000 and 40,000 people over the festival days.