Record crowd attended Waitangi in act of Kotahitanga

Te Mātāwai kaimahi Ria Tomoana and Marcelle Pio with journalist Miriama Kamo at our Waitangi stall.

Mist draped over rolling hills and the sea view at Waitangi finally appeared as our two carloads of Te Mātāwai kaimahi joined the dusty backroad traffic jam to Waitangi Day 2024 commemorations.

Our bumper-to-bumper arrival on February 6 reflected the record 60,000 attendees estimated at the Treaty Grounds this year; twice the number that attended Waitangi in 2023.    

Te Mātāwai, like others we spoke to, went to show our solidarity for Māori rights, especially for te reo Māori and Te Tiriti, in the face of the new coalition government. 

Te Mātāwai Manager Ria Tomoana said it was important to be there, to listen to whānau Māori and tautoko their reo Māori revitalisation dreams and efforts.  

“Our language is protected as a taonga by article 2 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and we wanted to be present with iwi and hapori to hold space so we don’t go backwards. Having a stall was a chance to engage with whānau and to share how we support  hapori in revitalising te reo Māori, to be inspired by what they are doing and hear what they need,” Ria said.

We chatted to attendees about their reo aspirations and making language plans, concerns for Te Tiriti, and heard about kaupapa we had invested in such as wānanga, language classes or reo Māori resources. About 50 people filled in our survey about te reo Māori at Waitangi and some responses are below.         

Taitea Snowden (Te Rarawa and Ngāti Wai) said they were at Waitangi for “Mana Motuhake and to support the stand against the new government.” 

“My biggest (3 year) aspiration is to be surrounded by my mokopuna and that they can speak or easily attain te reo Māori. By driving it in my whānau now through my own journey lens, I hope to inspire,” she said. 

Uirakohu Matthews (Te Rarawa Kaiwhare, Te Aupōuri) said it was a whānau tradition to attend Waitangi and “it’s a day we fill our cups and feel motivated to make change.”