ROYAL RECEPTION AT
The lookout in his puhara will shout a warning and three warriors will advance with their taiahas, ready to challenge the ‘intruder’: the most illustrious visitor to step on to any Maori marae. When Her Majesty the Queen picks up the twigs of peace from the grass at Arawa Park, Rotorua, on January 2 next year, it will be the signal for the greatest of Maori welcomes.
More than 15,000 Maori people, it is expected, will be assembled to greet her. They include more than 2000 for whom the Government is providing food and transport and who will be acting as hosts to outside visitors. In addition, 200 Maori leaders have been invited to Rotorua as the Government's guests. For many months on the East Coast, in the Bay of Plenty, at Rotorua and Taupo, and among the Taihauauru people to the west, preparations have been made for the songs and dances with which scores of Maori men and women, boys and young maidens will salute and entertain their sovereign.
Her Majesty will arrive at the park at 2.45 p.m. and her car will halt at the end of a long arena, made by uniting the ‘straight’ and the lawns before the grandstands. There she will be greeted by the Minister of Maori Affairs, and presented with a bouquet by a Maori girl. Then, following the challenge and the acceptance of the people, she will advance slowly up the lawn while 140 warriors of Te Arawa and Ngati-Tuwharetoa perform three war dances: Uhi uhi mai te waero, a peruperu; Koia ano koia ano, and waikurekure ha. They will be
succeeded by Te Arawa singing Utaina and toia mai te waka.
The Queen will now have reached the dais at the end of the lawn. When she takes her seat there, she will be given a morocco-bound programme which will explain to her all the songs and dances she is to see, and provide her with an English translation of the words.
Five of the paramount chiefs will then advance to the dais carrying a carved box containing the Maori people's address of welcome. As they come, the performers at the sides will chant a pokeka. Mr Corbett will take the address and read it to Her Majesty, and the Bishop of Aotearoa, the Rt. Rev. W. N. Panapa, will read it in Maori.
The Tuwharetoa people on the platform below Her Majesty's dais will then thunder into their war dance: Te aea o ia rangi. Chiefs will come forward with gifts for the Queen, and the chiefs themselves will then be presented to Her Majesty. The Queen will reply to the address of welcome, and the official part of the programme will close with 300 girls performing a combination poi dance.
Then, for 20 minutes, the Matatua people of Whakatane, the Ngati-Porou people from the East Coast, and the Taihauauru people, will entertain their Royal guest with action songs, hakas and dances. The ceremony will conclude with all parties joining in a great massed haka.
PREPARATIONS: This short ceremony before Her Majesty will represent the culmination of months of enthusiastic work by the performers and the Rotorua Maori Reception Committee under the chairmanship of Major H. R. Vercoe.
When the Arawa, Mataatua and Ngati-Tu-wharetoa people undertook to act as hosts at the Rotorua reception they knew that the task would not be easy. They knew that every little detail would have to be properly planned and prepared so that nothing should mar the final ceremony. They have entered into this work with the greatest of enthusiasm, and have given the utmost assistance and co-operation to those of their people whom they have elected to the Reception Committee. The work of this committee has been divided among sub-committees, and these have been able to call on the assistance of many willing helpers.
CEREMONIAL AND ENTERTAINMENT: The Ceremonial and Entertainment sub-committee has decided on the detail of the actual ceremony and entertainment to take place at Arawa Park. Meetings with tribal representatives throughout the district have been held, and these have laid the foundation for the final form of the ceremony. Hundreds of Maoris, men and women, young and not so young, have been busy practising their dances and songs for many months. They will all be assembled in Rotorua a few days before the actual reception, so that they can practise together on the marae which has been constructed on Arawa Park.
ACCOMMODATION AND SUPPLIES: The first big problem was to decide where to accommodate the performers and the official guests during the three or four days they were to be in Rotorua. The official intimation had been that a camp would not be erected on Arawa Park as for previous receptions to members of the Royal Family. It was finally decided to accept the offer of those maraes near Rotorua and Rotoiti to make their accommodation available for the visitors. Each of these maraes has set up a committee, to be responsible for the well-being of its visitors, and to co-operate with the Reception Committee in matters relating to transport, food and tentage.
All visitors to Rotorua will be expected to bring their own blankets and cutlery with them. It has not been found possible to obtain sufficient quantities of these articles to provide for the expected number of visitors. On each marae temporary dining rooms and cookhouses are being constructed and temporary water supplies are being laid on for the tented areas. The Army Department has been closely cooperating with the Reception Committee, and has made large quantities of tents, palliasses, cookhouse equipment and other essential camping items available for the period that visitors will be accommodated on the maraes. The Reception Committee proposes to accommodate the visiting performers and guests at the following maraes:
|2||Ohinemutu||200 official guests and people from Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-Poneke.|
|3||Owhata||Taranaki and Wanganui.|
|4||Pikirangi||Waimana, Waiotahi, and Kutarere.|
|5||Ruamata||Tauranga, Motiti, Patuwai and Pukehina.|
|6||Takinga||Ngati-Porou and section|
|7||Kahu||of the Tuhoe people|
|10||Uenuku||Ngaitai, Ngatiawa, and Whanau-Apanui.|
|11||Awahou||Waitaha and Ngati-Rangiwewehi.|
The feeding of all these visitors during the holiday season has been made easier by the
helpfulness of the local wholesale merchants and the management of the Horotiu Freezing Works. Fresh meat and butter will be delivered each day to the host maraes, and there will be no shortages of bread and other groceries. Several tons of potato seed were planted early in the year at various places in the Bay of Plenty with the assistance of the Maori Affairs Department, and the crop will go a long way towards providing for the needs of the various maraes.
TRANSPORT: The 200 official Government guests and the performers will be brought to their host maraes by train and bus under arrangement made by the Transport Sub-Committee. On the day of the reception they will be taken to the park and returned later to their maraes, and on the two following days they will be transported back to their homes. The transporting of these people from such a wide area will be difficult, but the sub-committee feels sure that it will have everybody in the right place at the right time.
BUILDINGS: The Buildings Sub-Committee has two main tasks: that of preparing Arawa Park for the Reception, and that of making and erecting the temporary accommodation required on the host maraes.
The front panels of an old meeting-house have been cleaned and repaired, and will be erected to form the entrance to the marae on Arawa Park.
In addition to the existing grandstands on the Park, temporary stands large enough to hold between 5000 and 6000 people are being built. The marae will be bounded on three sides by large grandstands, and the Royal dais will be at the other end of the marae, facing the entrance gate.
With the large number of performers and spectators expected at the reception, provision is being made for them by providing food stalls on the Park. The St. John Ambulance Brigade will be in attendance at the Park, and will be staffing the First Aid posts which are being erected at various points.
From all parts of the country the Maori people will flock to Rotorua. It will be not only a great gathering of the people, but a great opportunity for the strengthening of interest and enthusiasm in Maori dancing and singing. Between 1500 and 2000 will be performing. In the weeks ahead these expressions of their culture will take on new importance in their lives, and for the thousands—Maori and pakeha—who watch them, and for the millions more who will see them in action on cinema screens and television viewers, it will be the greatest display of our singing and dancing ever made.