Figures from the Waitangi National Trust show that of the 100,000 people who visit the Treaty grounds each year nearly half (45,000) are tourists, and nearly half of the 55,000 domestic visitors are from Auckland.
But only 3,000 schoolchildren – or just over 2.5 per cent of New Zealand’s 762,400 primary and secondary school students – make the trek north each year to the historic grounds.
This seems like a low number for a location that has great significance to New Zealand’s history however it isn’t the most accessible part of the country. It would probably make some sense for the initiative called ‘Our Nation’s children’ to perhaps target Auckland schools. For once I agree with the Principals’ Federation that it would be more difficult to get children from other parts of the country there:
“Look at the cost of a child in Gore catching a flight to Kerikeri; it was $800 for a return flight on Air New Zealand, it’s an awful lot of money.”
“That doesn’t allow for food and accommodation … how sustainable is that over time ?”
I remember visiting the Treaty grounds as a kid. My parents had a general belief to see all parts of New Zealand on our summer school holidays. We would scrapbook and write stories about what we had seen and learned each day. That of course was driven by my parents.
So many New Zealanders have a view of Waitangi as being a divisive and even scary place based on what they’ve seen from protests at Waitangi from the past. That can be a barrier to visiting.
It would be great to see Waitangi visited as often as Independence Hall is visited in the US. For interests sake I thought I’d have a look at the websites of the two locations. The site for Independence Hall (the location of where the Declaration of Independence was signed) is run by the US National Parks Service. It is clearly a very busy park and there’s a tonne to do on site and online. I then had a look at the Waitangi National Trust site that runs the visitor programme at Waitangi. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of education available online especially for teachers and children. The pages related to the new initiative ‘Our Nation’s Children’ are interesting and the schools’ competition certainly reduces the costs for some children to get to the grounds.
One interesting difference is that access to Waitangi is $25 for overseas visitors while Independence Hall is free to all (though extras such as tours are charged). A guided tour at Waitangi is $10 for all adults. At both sites children under 17 are free.