The sun rose on a moving Waitangi Day dawn ceremony with a mixture of Maori waiata, good-natured banter and a few chords from Bob Marley at Waitangi yesterday.
A smaller than usual crowd attended the traditional dawn service at the carved Whare Runanga meeting house on the Treaty Grounds. Inside were ministers of the Crown, iwi leaders, dignitaries, defence service chiefs, church leaders, local politicians, and people for whom the national day starts with prayer and quiet contemplation.
That contemplation was marked with humour, led by Hohepa Rudolph of Pawarenga.
He stepped in at the last minute to lead the service.
As usual, the lovely pohutukawa trees, the green swathe of the Treaty Grounds, the glistening Bay of Islands and sun strike on the famous flagpole created the perfect theatre.
As the strains of Whakaaria Mai (How Great Thou Art) wafted from the church service inside the whare, from somewhere among the trees, celebrating the birthday of reggae king Marley, the beat of One Love added to the ambience. Metiria Turei became the first Green Party co-leader to speak at the dawn service.
"May we have the courage and the grace to live in harmony with creation; to nurture and protect those wild places that we love and which sustain us," she said.
The dawn service began a Waitangi Day festival quite unlike the traditional powhiri, politicking and posturing of the previous two days.
While iwi and government leaders were still meeting and greeting, the talkfest was held mainly behind closed doors rather than in front of cameras, which instead focused on Waitangi Day celebrations - a feast of sport, entertainment, culture, tradition, change, family, laughter, art and heritage. And some mighty displays.
At 10.30am, a haka thundered over Te Tii beach, where about 10 waka and hundreds of crew had taken part in the annual Waitangi Day flotilla.
As has become a tradition, the giant war canoe Ngatokimatawhaorua - housed on the Treaty Grounds - led the waka ama. Crew members included Native Americans, Dutch and Ainu people from Japan.
About 120 naval personnel, along with the navy's band, paraded at the Treaty Grounds, followed at midday by a booming 21-gun salute from the frigate Te Mana, anchored in the Bay.
In a stunning spectacle of skill, from both man and machinery, the air force's precision flying display team the Red Checkers enthralled the many thousands of people enjoying the atmosphere at the Treaty Grounds.
Thousands of people took part in the Haka 4 Life, to break the silence around the epidemic of youth suicide in New Zealand.
The current Guinness world record is 3264 people.
At edition time, the number taking part yesterday was not known.