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Dawn event kicks off Waitangi celebrations

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5/02/2017

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett arrived in Waitangi on Sunday afternoon ahead of the event. © Getty Image Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett arrived in Waitangi on Sunday afternoon ahead of the event.

After a controversial few days of Waitangi Day celebrations at Te Tii Marae, celebratory events are set to begin at first light with a dawn service at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

The traditional event kicks off a big day of celebrations for New Zealanders across the country and the world.

Waitangi Day commemorates the first signing of New Zealand's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. It is a public holiday.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett arrived in Waitangi on Sunday afternoon ahead of the event.

She flew in on an New Zealand Air Force helicopter after visiting HMNZS Canterbury, which is docked in the Bay of Islands.

Ms Bennett will lead the government delegation at the dawn service in place of Prime Minister Bill English who has refused to attend because of a dispute over speaking rights at Sunday's powhiri.

Mr English is instead scheduled to attend a series of events across Auckland on Monday.

Labour leader Andrew Little will also attend the dawn service before returning to Wellington for celebrations there, ahead of the first day back at parliament on Tuesday.

Monday's events are set to be less controversial than those on Saturday and Sunday at Te Tii Marae where media were banned from covering the event after a number of organisations refused to pay $10,000 for exclusive coverage.

Marae representatives put up tarpaulins blocking views from outside during a visit by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy on Saturday.

NZ First MP Winston Peters boycotted a powhiri and political forum on Sunday because of the ban, which he called "totally out of hand" and an "abomination to Maoridom".

Mr Little expressed his concern about the ban while speaking at the powhiri and said he too would boycott Te Tii next year if it continued.

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