Akaroa celebrates French heritage

Akaroa celebrates French heritage

The Banks Peninsula township of Akaroa is celebrating its French heritage at a festival in the year of 175th celebrations.

The biennial Akaroa French Festival is running from yesterday until tomorrow. Today there's a re-enactment of the French landing at the beach, a parade, flag raising and market stalls.

The town, which is popular with tourists, has been celebrating 175 years of organised settlement at events throughout the year.

"Visitors are often drawn to Akaroa because of its reputation as a French town in New Zealand, but what they ultimately experience is a settlement that remains true to all its early influences - respecting its rich Maori culture and embracing its subsequent English, French and German heritage," Akaroa Promotions executive officer, Hollie Hollander said when detailing events this year.

In 1838 a French whaler, Captain Langlois, earmarked Akaroa as an ideal location to service the burgeoning whaling industry. Langlois acquired the peninsula in a dubious land deal with local Maori and returned to France to arrange for a group of French and German families to sail back to New Zealand to form a French colony.

The five-month journey for 57 voyagers on board the Comte de Paris ended in disappointment when they disembarked on August 19, 1840 only to discover that the Treaty of Waitangi had already been signed and British sovereignty was declared over the whole of New Zealand.

But Akaroa lured the settlers with its charm and abundance and the French and German settlers opted to stay, Ms Hollander said.