Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy was showered with praise as she was welcomed to the upper marae at Waitangi with a pōwhiri on Thursday.
In her speech from the paepae, Dame Patsy reflected on how it was her fifth visit to Waitangi, the fourth with a pōwhiri, which she described as "stirring".
Dame Patsy thanked Ngāpuhi leader and activist Titewhai Harawira for being so welcoming to her and for keeping her word that they would one day sit together on the paepae.
The Governor-General talked about what Waitangi means to her by reflecting on the words of Lord Cobham in 1962, who described the Treaty Grounds as "hallowed ground".
"It is one of the few places upon this earth where good sense once prevailed over passion and prejudice," he said. "It brought together two fine races who settled down together to achieve full nationhood for a young and undeveloped country, under the Queen's peace and law."
Dame Patsy said: "We walk in the footsteps of people who signed a sacred pact in good faith."
She also mentioned former Governor-General Lord Bledisloe, who in 1932, purchased the Waitangi estate and gave it to the nation as a permanent reminder of New Zealand's founding agreement.
The gifting was celebrated with a hui on February 6, 1934, attended by some 10,000 people.
On that day, the foundation stone was laid for the Whare Runanga, the official name of the upper marae, where politicians have gathered since 2017 after tensions built up over political presence at the lower marae.
Dame Patsy, who is learning Māori, said she listened to the concerns raised by Ngāpuhi representatives, including hardship and climate change anxieties.
"I hear you," she said.
She told reporters on the topic of colonisation: "While a lot of ground has been covered - the recent sovereignty fund - there is still a long way to go in recognising the independent aspirations and histories. So I'm saying yes I hear that. It's not something I can solve but I have been listening to those conversations and I will continue to do so."
Dame Patsy also said she was pleased that Kiwi kids will be learning about New Zealand history in schools, the details of which were outlined by Education Minister Chris Hipkins on Wednesday.
The Governor-General's speech was well received by Te Waihoroi Shortland, a Ngāpuhi representative of Ngati Hine, who told Dame Patsy she will "always be part of the history" of Waitangi.
He said she had a good understanding of nationhood, highlighting how the Governor-General encourages people to visit Waitangi at least once to learn about the history.
"You've personified it, you've walked it, and every opportunity you have raised what nationhood means to us all," he said. "You have woven five years of legacy into the fabric of Waitangi Day."
The Governor-General smiled as she talked about how she had to replant a tree on the Treaty Grounds on Thursday after one she previously planted was knocked over by a contractor.
"I was very proud of it but I understand there was a small accident relatively recently and it got run over," she told reporters. "I'm so thrilled it got run over before I finished my term so I get to plant a new one."
The Governor-General is the Queen's representative in New Zealand.