MPs have been welcomed to Waitangi by local iwi Ngāpuhi with a plea not to "sit down once a year and go back to Wellington" without addressing the issues facing Māori.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, National leader Judith Collins, ACT leader David Seymour, Greens co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson, and a host of other politicians were welcomed to the upper marae at the Treaty Grounds with a powerful pōwhiri.
Ardern - as per tradition - was welcomed to Te Whare Rūnanga hand-in-hand with Titewhai Harawira, a Ngāpuhi elder with a history of Māori activism.
Ardern, Collins and Davidson sat alongside each other during the ceremony - a scene which was recognised by Ngāpuhi elder Hone Sadler who suggested women could be the key to getting things done in politics.
"Perhaps you are the sacred trio," Sadler said in his address, despite Collins not being allowed to speak on the paepae, with her deputy leader Shane Reti - who is Māori - filling in for her and speaking out against the decision.
Dr Reti said National was "saddened" by Collins not being allowed to speak, and urged Ngāpuhi representatives to "not forget the power of women" and that their influence should be given "great consideration".
Ardern was the first female Prime Minister to be given the right to speak in 2018 at Waitangi's upper marae after prolonged discussions. But the Prime Minister is yet to speak at the more controversial Te Tii marae.
The lower marae is where former Prime Minister Helen Clark - who was Opposition leader at the time - was brought to tears in 1998 after she was challenged by Harawira about her rights to speak on the marae as a woman.
Te Waihoroi Shortland, of Ngati Hine, confirmed that Collins not being able to speak "will be fixed" next year, and that he had intended to allow Collins to speak, but time was running out.
The pōwhiri included a range of speakers who raised issues facing Māori, including ballooning house prices, poverty, youth suicide and overrepresentation of Māori in prisons.
Ngāpuhi's Hirini Tau talked about how the "cries and concerns" of Māori must be heard. He praised Labour Party deputy leader Kelvin Davis, MP for the Māori electorate of Te Tai Tokerau, for "being here" and representing his people.
"Don't just come sit down once a year and go back to Wellington," he told MPs.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern used her speech to announce the date of the new Matariki public holiday, which Labour promised to introduce during the election campaign last year.
Ngā Mata o te Ariki, more commonly known as Matariki, will be celebrated on Friday 24 June next year. The 2022 date was advised by the Matariki Advisory Group.
Because the date of Matariki changes each year depending on the appearance of a cluster of stars known as Pleiades, the Matariki Advisory Group will provide advice on future dates of the public holiday.
"Matariki will be a distinctly New Zealand holiday; a time for reflection and celebration, and our first public holiday that recognises Te Ao Māori," Ardern said in her speech from the paepae.
"It's great to have the date locked in for next year. This will be a day to acknowledge our nation's unique, shared identity, and the importance of tikanga Māori. It's going to be something very special, and something uniquely New Zealand."
She linked the recognition of the new Māori holiday to her own appreciation of Māori people, highlighting how Labour's Māori caucus now has 15 members.
But Ardern acknowledged there is a lot more to do.
She reflected on issues that had been raised at Waitangi last year, such as the Ihumātao land dispute in south Auckland and controversy surrounding Oranga Tamariki and the uplifts of Māori babies.
Ardern said Aotearoa "will always have clouds", but she hopes the Government's policies - such as the recent resolution over Ihumātao - will work towards those clouds not casting such long shadows over the country.
"We must work together," Ardern said, pointing out how she has overseen significant bridges crossed for Māori, including Nanaia Mahuta being appointed as the first Māori and wāhine Foreign Affairs Minister.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson delivered some of his speech in te reo and talked about how he married into Ngati Porou, and how his husband's children and grandchildren have Māori connections.
"It is the mokopuna we must look to today as we debate the future," Robertson said.
ACT leader David Seymour talked about the misconception that Waitangi is not a welcoming place. He said on the contrary it is very welcoming and that all New Zealanders should visit to get a sense of our history.
Seymour said the Treaty of Waitangi and the Treaty Grounds has given New Zealand a unique ability to talk through issues as a country and progress change with dignity.
Māori Green MP Teanau Tuiono spoke on behalf of his party.
He talked up his Green Party co-leaders and how their ministerial portfolios are significant for Māori.
Davidson is Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence and also Associate Minister of Housing with responsibility for homelessness.
James Shaw is Climate Change Minister, an issue raised several times during speeches by Ngāpuhi representatives.
Waitangi commemorations will continue into Saturday, which is Waitangi Day, when a dawn service at the upper marae will celebrate the 181st anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.