Northland ho! From the beautiful Auckland we head north to Waitangi and the Bay of Islands. Waitangi holds extra special significance as the birthplace of New Zealand. This area was the first to be settled by European immigrants, as is evidenced by the oldest building and the oldest stone building in the country. One of the local towns, Russell, was dubbed “The Hell-hole of the Pacific” due to the unsavoury nature of the establishments and general lawlessness of the British settlers.
In an effort to bring order to the New Zealand settlements, the British Government sent James Busby. Busby was fairly ineffective in law enforcement, as he lacked the resources to do so, but was an excellent mediator between the British and Maori peoples. Busby designed the first flag for the Maori to be used on ships to gain them faster access to ports and provide identification and, thus, protection. In 1835 Busby hosted a gathering of the northern chiefs to sign the New Zealand Declaration of Independence.
On the Waitangi Treaty Grounds we are able to tour through Busby’s home, set atop the hill overlooking the expansive grounds and bay below. Hearing that there were few building materials available in New Zealand, Busby had his home built in Australia, taken apart to transport by ship, and reconstructed on site. Now known as “The Treaty House”, it is one of the oldest remaining homes in the country and is quite extravagant for the times and circumstances. Busby was known as the father of viticulture in New Zealand and was quite the botanist, as is displayed by the beautiful gardens, lemon trees and grape vines surrounding the homestead.
In 1840, Captain William Hobson was sent to assist Busby and make a treaty between the British and Maori. The men spent a month writing the treaty and presented it to a local missionary to translate overnight into Maori for the gathering of Chiefs the following day. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6, 1840.
The grounds are now home to the world’s largest war canoe, called a waka, Te Whare Runanga or Maori meeting house and the naval flagstaff marking where the treaty was signed.
For the afternoon and evening, we are guests aboard the Ipipiri for a cruise around the Bay of Islands. Shortly after boarding we are visited by a pod of dolphins, eager to jump and play in the boat’s wake. We are given the opportunity to participate in several activities at a remote beach. Being the crazy Canadians that we are, we opt for snorkelling in the ``sub-tropical`` waters. We gained the admiration of the staff, however, as even sub-tropical in the Spring is more like sub-zero.
The sun sets as we enjoy a lovely dinner at sea. Another day well spent learning about the local culture and history, taking in the natural sights and wonders and pondering what tomorrow holds.