Waitangi and Russell
Monday 25th November 2013
Having spent a week or so straightening out the boat and getting our bearings around the immediate area of Opua – this didn’t take long as it’s a very small place – we hired a car for a couple of days to explore a bit further afield.
First stop, just 15 minutes’ drive away, was Waitangi, where in 1840 a Treaty was signed by Maori chiefs giving sovereignty of New Zealand to Britain. This followed requests sent to the Crown for law and order to be established in areas where Europeans were beginning to settle and which were becoming lawless and unpleasant places to be. There is, however, some controversy over the meaning of ‘sovereignty’ as there were two versions of the Treaty – one in English and one in Maori, with differences between the two. Despite this, the Treaty is seen as New Zealand’s founding document, and the site where it was signed hails itself as the most important historic site in the country.
Plaque at the foot of the flagstaff. The lawn overlooking the Bay of Islands where the Treaty was signed.
The first British Residency, now called the Treaty House. Maori meeting house built nearby in 1930’s.
Typical Maori greeting outside the meeting house. A superb performance of traditional Maori dance.
As we knew nothing at all about New Zealand’s history, this was a good place to start, and we enjoyed the guided tour and the cultural performance which gave us an introduction to the country and its history.
It was then back to the present day as Steve had an appointment at the dentist, so I dropped him off in Paihia and drove back to the marina to get Rod, who also had an appointment. Both were soon sorted, so on the way back we took the car ferry over to Russell, a small town on the other side of the bay.
Today Russell is a quiet, pleasant place, but back in the early 1800’s it was a base for whalers and trading ships, and was known as the ‘Hell-hole of the Pacific’! It was the main reason that help was sought from Britain for help with law and order, and the reason why the first British Resident came to live at Waitangi. From here one can look across the bay to the lawn where the Treaty was signed. It was sensible of the British to establish the Residency across the water from the ‘den of iniquity’ that was Russell, then known as Kororareka.
The Opua to Russell car ferry, every 10-15 mins, takes 5 mins. Crossing the partner ferry.
The waterfront in Russell has a colonial feel. This restaurant building was built in 1845.
A beautiful old tree on the seafront.
A long but very enjoyable and informative day. One of the advantages of moving this far south is the lighter evenings – it doesn’t get dark until around 9 p.m. which is wonderful after being for so long in places of 12-hour days.