Posted by: scribe9 | February 1, 2010

Hobson holidays

This is a big week here in Northland. It’s flanked by holidays that  involve William Hobson, there’s no Hobson’s choice involved as to the first one. (William was Irish; Thomas Hobson, of take-it-or-leave-it fame, was English.)

February 1 is Auckland and Northland Anniversary Day, and it’s a holiday throughout the north part of the north island, which all was originally part of Auckland Province. In this era of Monday holidays, today’s the observance of Hobson’s arrival on January 29, 1840 not in the city of Auckland, but in the Bay of Islands north of Whangarei, to set up a government in part to assure that the Maori would not get in the way of the British Empire. On the morning of September 18, 1840, Hobson founded the City of Auckland as New Zealand’s second capital. That afternoon there was an impromptu celebratory regatta.

Auckland Anniversary Day was first observed on January 29, 1842, celebrating the province rather than the City, and there’s been a regatta every year since 1842 except for 1900, during the Boer War (New Zealand, proving its superior loyalty to the Crown, of course sent troops to South Africa in aid of the British Empire), and it’s now the biggest one-day regatta in the world. No wonder Auckland’s the City of Sails.

Even though today’s not a national holiday, almost everything—including the post office—is closed, as it will no doubt be locally for each of the other eleven provinces on their anniversaries. (They were established principally to save the British Government expenses of administration.) ever mind that the provinces being celebrated were all disbanded in 1876. They were replaced by counties (eventually 120) and boroughs that in turn were abolished in 1989, to be replaced by regions which roughly correspond to the original provinces and are divided into districts. (We live in the Whangarei district of Northland region.) In a non-federal system, regional government seems to be more fluid—look what’s happened to the counties of England and the provinces of France, which exist on maps and in people’s minds and hearts but not in any official capacity.

This weekend is also the last three-day weekend before the school year starts. New Zealanders are avid campers, so it’s too bad that it’s pouring the day many have to pack up and go home. But even the start of the school year is fluid. Primary and intermediate schools start tomorrow, and high schools next week. Why the gap? Probably to drive parents crazy, because of course it means that the terms end at different times, too. (And there are very few truly private schools; most religious schools get public funding, and are known as integrated state schools.)

Saturday is the second Hobson holiday. Waitangi Day this year celebrates the 170th anniversary of the initial signing of the treaty between the British and Maori which is considered the founding of New Zealand. (Hobson, who’d arrived a week earlier, represented the Crown as Lieutenant Governor and Consul.) It wasn’t even a public holiday until 1934, after the treaty grounds where it was signed had been given to the public (see https://enzed0910.wordpress.com/2009/12/14/in-the-beginning/).

It’s strictly a February 6 holiday, so Friday won’t be a day off. The theme of celebrations this year is bi-culturalism, which is hardly surprising; there’s plenty of tension between Maori and European New Zealanders over the flag, the country’s name, and so forth, along with what the treaty really means.

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