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Dawn service marks 173rd Waitangi Day

Wednesday 6 Feb 2013 5:20 a.m.

A dawn service has kicked off another day of celebrations to mark the 173rd anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Today’s service was held in the treaty grounds at Waitangi, and was attended by political leaders including Prime Minister John Key, Labour leader David Shearer and Greens co-leader Metiria Turei.

Mr Key said the service went well.

“The dawn service is always a nice service.”

Ms Turei was the first Greens co-leader to speak at the dawn service.

"It is a deep honour to be able to speak at the dawn service at Waitangi, and to be able to recognise the special place of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in our constitutional arrangements," she said.

As well as the dawn service, there will be other family-oriented events at Te Tii Marae to mark Waitangi Day.

The ceremony follows a relatively trouble-free day when political leaders arrived at the marae yesterday.

Unlike previous years' events, which have featured mudslinging, tears and arrests, the crowds gathered were well-behaved.

The only source of drama was a stoush over who would lead Mr Key onto the marae.

After a delay of more than half an hour, a compromise was reached and Mr Key was escorted onto the marae by Titewhai Harawira and a number of other kuia.

Mr Key has vowed he'll keep coming back to Waitangi because it's an important part of engagement between the Crown and Maori.

"When we got to the lower marae we did actually get an opportunity to get on, to speak and it was all fairly calm there, so that's a step up from last year."

At the 2012 Waitangi celebrations, Mr Key was shouted down by protesters and he had to cut his speech short.

3 News / NZN

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