A rather interesting combination, treaties and toilets don’t you think? You’ll understand how both are significant icons of New Zealand as you read on. The first laid the foundations of today’s bi-cultural New Zealand. The latter is an immigrant’s way of thanking New Zealand for being so amazing. If I was so talented I’d have done the same.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds
On Sunday 11th October, we drove a short way from Kerikeri to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. It had changed considerably since I last visited in March 2002 with mum and dad. There’s now a magnificent museum full of fascinating information. Sadly though, once again we hadn’t allocated sufficient time to really absorb all on offer.
It cost us as New Zealand citizens/residents, $25 each admission, half what it is for overseas visitors so we were thankful for that though it still felt expensive. The price included a tour and two days’ worth of entrance – neither of which we were able to make use of. Damn! Ah well. We can’t see all of everything. So we made the most of the time we had.
Te Kongahu Museum Of Waitangi
Opened in 2016, what a superb museum this is. We absorbed as much as we could of the stunning artwork and stories, but only scraped the surface of the taonga/treasures.
While in Northland we saw the first NZ flag – neither of us had noticed it previously anywhere. We also found another subsequent NZ flag contender at Kawakawa which I’ll share further down. It’s a bit of a subject for us, as when we were in lockdown in the UK, we stayed together with two other narrowboats. Our lockdown mooring was known as ‘The Flag Bubble‘. While we proudly flew the current NZ flag, another boat flew the Union Jack and the third the Reme flag.
Around 12.45 pm, while we were absorbed in the museum, I overheard another visitor talking about a cultural performance beginning at 1 pm. We rushed through the last half of the museum to watch that, as I knew the beautifully carved ‘Te Whare Rūnanga‘ meeting house was something worth seeing.
The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of today’s New Zealand. I acknowledge it was written far too hastily, and there are discrepancies between the English and Maori versions. However, it provides the backbone of the partnership between the British and the Tangata Whenua, which has enabled Aotearoa to be such a bi-cultural society. Unlike its nearest neighbour. But I shan’t even begin to compare the profound differences.
Sadly we had no time to visit the Te Rau Aroha Museum, commemorating the commitment and sacrifice of Maori in the NZ Armed Forces. We did get to see the Treaty House, however, where the first flag was chosen in 1834. The Declaration of Independence was drafted by James Busby in 1835, and The Treaty of Waitangi read to the chiefs in 1840. Barry took some photos of this whare, which you’ll find in the slider below.
Each year on Waitangi Day, 6th February, a service is held at the Treaty Grounds. One of the magnificent wakas (Ngātokimatawhaorua /Ceremonial War Canoe), is used to bring people in, just as they did hundreds of years ago. It must be a moving sight.
“Ngātokimatawhaorua was built to mark the centenary of the Treaty of Waitangi’s signing in 1940 and was built by members of New Zealand’s northern and Waikato tribes. The waka is launched every year in February as part of Waitangi Day celebrations.“https://www.waitangi.org.nz/discover-waitangi/ceremonial-war-canoe/
Again, Barry took some stunning shots of the wakas, so check them out.
Terrific Kawakawa Toilets
Mid-afternoon, after a snatched lunch at the Treaty Grounds cafe, we continued a short way to Kawakawa to visit the famous toilets. Again I visited these with mum and dad and remembered them being quite unique. There was more to see this time.
Designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, they were opened in 1999. So when I saw them previously, they were only a few years old. They’ve certainly weathered well, I suspect lovingly cared for by the locals. We missed Jacinda by only a couple of days, as she’d opened the new Kawakawa’s Te Hononga community hub, celebrating the artist and his contribution to the town. He’d initially visited in the 1970s, and (understandably!) loved the country so much he decided to make it his second home. He bought a property nearby and spent six months each year there.
I love his words: ‘We live only once and money making is not all. It is harmony with beauty, and harmony with nature that makes us feel good“. He was certainly a man we would have got on well with.
The exhibition is excellent, and there are now more public toilets and a new library for the community. I adored his colourful posters on the first floor, with messages from 1990 about saving the natural world – he was ahead of his time.
What a splendid little town, which I’m sure has lots more to offer. Like most NZ towns it’s packed with murals, the nearby ones contain Hundertwasser quotes:
Catching Up Slowly!
You’ll have gathered that we’re way behind with the blog, mainly due to having such a tremendous time here in Aotearoa. Rest assured though, we won’t be skimping on images and stories from our travels. It’ll just take a while to get up to date!
Barry captured a few super images of this part of our journey to share:
(Click on an image to view the slideshow)