Touring around the north of Northland is a step back into our earliest history, both European and Māori. It is the story of how the races met and interacted, of colonial days, development, hardship, conflict and strife – all the factors that shape the north as we find it today.

Approaching Russell from Paihia on a lovely spring morning. The Duke of Marlborough Hotel beckons for lunch.

Our group travelled by road from Auckland to Whangarei, but the trip really began in Paihia and Russell, where a visit to the Duke of Marlborough Hotel is almost compulsory when one is in this part of the world.

Fortunately, the sun shone as we sat on the veranda of the hotel and listened to Hone Mihaka tell his version of history after Europeans started arriving in serious numbers from about 1820 onwards. Hone is the nephew of the redoubtable Dun Mihaka who has grabbed a few headlines in his time for protest actions including baring his buttocks to the Queen when she was on a visit to New Zealand. He’s a Māori sovereigntist and would prefer to see the 1835 Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand as the founding document of New Zealand rather than the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi.

In 1835, concerned about lawlessness and strife between Māori and Europeans, a group of northern tribes met and declared themselves to be the government of the nation of Aotearoa. They sought recognition from King William IV for their actions but none came, and instead the Colonial Office sent Captain Hobson to negotiate what would become the Treaty of Waitangi.

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