Day 187: Waitangi

Trip Start Sep 21, 2006
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175
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Trip End Jun 01, 2007


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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Further north along the coast from Paihia is Waitangi. On a site marked by a flagstaff here on 6 February 1840 43 Maori chiefs agreed to sign a treaty that effectively turned New Zealand over to the protection of the British Empire. Not entirely one-sided, the treaty was in part requested by the local tribes to protect them from the possibility of a French takeover but it led to a great wave of European settlers arriving and great swathes of land being bought and divided between the new arrivals. The details of the treaty have been debated ever since.
The Visitors Centre includes Treaty House, the former home of James Busby, the first British Resident (Governor) and, incidentally, N.Z's first wine producer, a facsimile of the Treaty of Waitangi he drafted, plus a Maori war canoe and meeting hall built on the 100th anniversary of the treaty signing. It doesn't add up to much for what is promoted as the 'birthplace' of the nation. There are few artefacts from the 1840s. But the centre has a lovely setting in acres of parkland beside a bay and the Waitangi River (though much land is given over to a golf course).
A 10km walk from here to Haruru Falls is worth it for the journey rather than the destination - meagre falls, with a pool of scum below and the obligatory Hotel Backpackers above. Along the way I hear the distinctive song of the tui, a mynah-like bird with a white nape. Its call is the definitive sound of New Zealand, as the magpie is in Australia. A wooden walkway crosses through mangroves. Beyond, numerous cormorants are nesting. Then it rains. Truly autumn has arrived in the Northland and my time in the sun is all but over.
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