A hīkoi to promote peace and cultural understanding started in New Plymouth on Wednesday.
The three-day event is being led by out-going mayor Andrew Judd and will end up in Parihaka on Friday.
About 250 people, both young and old, Māori and non-Māori, turned up outside the New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) to begin the journey.
The peace walk was instigated by Mr Judd after he received abuse from members of the public for advocating for Māori representation on the NPDC.
He said the issue has raised an opportunity to have a conversation about how Māori and Pākehā need to work together as Treaty partners.
“It’s been a journey of the challenge from the question of representation, a simple question that got a reaction which is more telling of who we are in New Zealand than so many ways the question itself, so that reaction is where we need to talk with each other.”
Kiterangi Cameron (Ngāti Mutunga) was one of the hundreds of locals who turned out for the hīkoi.
She said the peace walk is a symbol of unity.
“Ko ngā tino wawata o te rā nei kia whakakotahi ai te iwi, me kī, te iwi o te motu kua tae mai nei i tēnei rangi kia hīkoi pai, kia hīkoi tahi.”
She said Mr Judd has taken a very brave stance to encourage biculturalism within the council.
“Kua tū kaha a Anaru ahakoa te aha mō te kaupapa nui o te rā. Ko te mea nui ki a ia ko te noho tahi a Māori, a Pākehā ki waenganui i tēnei mea ko te kaunihera.”
Tatiana Glassie is a student at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Pi’ipi’inga Kākano Mai Rangiātea, a Māori language immersion school based in the New Plymouth suburb of Spotswood.
She said many people such as herself support Mr Judd for doing his best to raise awareness of Māori history and what the Treaty of Waitangi really means.
“Kua tae mai mātou ki runga i tēnei o ngā hīkoinga kia tautoko i tētahi o ngā tangata akiaki i a tātou ki roto i ngā mahi o te ao Māori - kua tae mai mātou kia tautoko i a ia kia moremore i tana tuara.”
Despite the flack he’s received Andrew Judd’s stand to include Māori representation on the NPDC has attracted a lot of support not only nationally but internationally.
“There's certainly been a gathering of support from around New Zealand from councils and from around the world - that itself shows that there's a requirement for us to have this conversation about who we are and where we've come from, but mostly where we’re heading,” Mr Judd said.
The first leg of the hīkoi started in New Plymouth on Wednesday morning at 9:30am with walkers arriving in Ōākura at 2pm followed by a community forum.
The second day of the event leaves Ōākura at 9:30am arriving in Ōkato at 2pm after which another community forum will take place.
The final leg of the hīkoi begins at 8:00am with walkers arriving at Parihaka Pā at 2pm where a pōwhiri will welcome everyone on to the marae.