New Zealand’s national day — Waitangi Day — marks the signing on February 6, 1840, of a treaty between the British Crown and about 40 northern Māori chiefs. Almost 180 years later the Treaty of Waitangi‘s meaning, and what the two sides understood they were signing up to, is still fiercely debated. What is certain is that the ink was barely dry before the treaty was broken.
For that reason Waitangi Day is a complex, sometimes confrontational celebration, disparaged by conservative commentators who’d much prefer the flag-waving and fireworks of Australia Day or the USA’s Independence Day. However, Waitangi Day at Waitangi — the small town near the top of the North Island where the signing took place — is a vibrant, colourful, contradictory, welcoming and immensely enjoyable celebration.
It’s also a photographer’s dream. I’ve been covering Waitangi Day as a reporter and occasional photographer since 2010, so I thought it was time I chose a few of my favourite images. You may see how Waitangi Day is changing; hopefully you’ll also see progress in my photography. Enjoy!