Commemoration of King Tūheitia's coronation goes ahead with drastically reduced numbers

Source: 1News

The commemoration of King Tūheitia’s coronation has gone ahead this year, but with plenty of changes due to Covid-19.

Waikato-Tainui drastically reduced the numbers allowed onto the country’s largest marae, Tūrangawaewae, with tens of thousands instead tuning in to a live stream of the event.

In Waikato, kīngitanga (kingdom) decided events would be scaled back and live streamed under Alert Level 2.

“I'll be very honest and very blunt - I was sad because, well, it’s different for me,” the Māori King Tūheitia daughter, Ngawai hono i te po Paki, said.

The Koroneihana (coronation) is usually a week-long affair. However, this year, it’s been cut to just two days.

“You know, for the kingitanga (kingdom), limiting the crowd to 100 is incredibly hard. That's a very, very small crowd for us,” the King’s chief of staff, Archdeacon Ngira Simmonds, said.

However, it's not the only changes being made this year.

Marae bosses cancelled this year’s waka salute because they wanted to keep people safe without losing the spirit of the day. 

Iwi leaders from around the country who would have spoken on Tūrangawaewae Marae are now contributing from home.

Priests are also joining via Zoom in a strong message of love in the time of a pandemic.

“We should love people from Ngāpuhi, we should love people from Te Arawa, we should love people from Tūhoe, Apanui,” Gisborne bishop Don Tamihere said.

“We should love people from Ngāti Porou, have I gone too far? I may have crossed a line.”

A socially distanced rātana (lantern) band was also present for the occasion.

Everyone entering the marae was tested, making hongi acceptable, Kingitanga spokesperson Rahui Papa said.

“So anyone that comes onto the marae from the kaumātua, to the reo, to our rōpū (group) kapa haka were all tested,” Mr Papa said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to King Tūheitia from Wellington.

“We can achieve so much by working together with yourself, Waikato-Tainui and other iwi across the motu,” Ms Ardern said.

Every year, Koroneihana culminates in the King’s speech. In the past, King Tūheitia has used the opportunity to back the Māori Party. This year, however, his message was more subtle.

“You all know my thoughts - we need strong Māori voices in Parliament,” he said. “We will only achieve that if all Māori vote.”