Waitangi Day in Te Anau has become synonymous with a free festival-style event in Lions Park, with family friendly entertainment for all ages. Commemorating the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the large outdoor event encourages community participation and promotes understanding through cultural experiences.
Fiordland, being heavily reliant on international visitors, has been one of the hardest hit regions in NZ since borders closed. When NZ went to a red traffic light setting, the tough decision was made to cancel the large 2022 event.
However, the Te Anau Waitangi Charitable Trust recognised that the pandemic had created an urgent need to build and maintain positivity to keep community spirit alive. The decision was made to plan a COVID compliant celebration – extending the event to a series of weeklong activities, creating a very special Waitangi Day experience. The goal remained the same - building nationhood, community, and understanding by providing opportunities for people to learn about the history and culture of Aotearoa New Zealand, tikanga Māori and the Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The way it was delivered changed with the Trust offering a variety of small, safe cultural experiences.
The 2022 Te Anau Waitangi Day commemorations were comprised of family friendly activities designed to engage and educate. Flags of New Zealand were displayed in the main streets of Te Anau and Manapouri, a mixed media art competition/exhibition was held with the theme - Te Taiao, the natural world that surrounds us. A Selfie Hikoi - photo scavenger hunt competition and a Spot the Treaty Scrolls competition for children got families out and about in the community. A Kids Community Korowai, with children decorating a paper feather showing what Te Taiao meant to them, was made into a large cloak that was displayed in the window of a shop.
Flax Weaving workshops were held with local weaver Des Cooper as well as a Cultural Walk with local historian, Ken Bradley. Fiordland Historic Cruises hosted cruises onboard “Faith in Fiordland” with a commentary on Māori and Pākehā local history. Passengers were welcomed with a mihi, given a flax putiputi as they embarked and were treated to a kapa haka performance by Ngā Herenga Waka Kapa Haka group (Invercargill) partway through their journey.
The have-a-go waka experience with Te Piritahi a Rua Waka Ama (Invercargill) proved a hit with a waka ama race between the visiting crew and locals adding to the fun. Kai stalls served traditional kai moana while the Fiordland Cinema held screenings of Disney’s film “Moana” including free drink and popcorn for the children and later a screening of NZ film “Cousins” for the adults rounded out the programme of events.
Trust chair, Jill Mitchell Larrivee, said “We found that this amended format, with its smaller group sizes, added greatly to the depth of engagement. Experiences were relevant, personal and meaningful and for some people, deeply moving. There were numerous opportunities for personal interaction, and we genuinely saw, in many small ways, nationhood, community and understanding being built.”