National | England

British & Irish Lions welcomed at Waitangi

The welcoming of the 2017 British & Irish Lions to Waitangi today provided a spark to the start of their tour of New Zealand in what was a spectacle that attracted hundreds of international visitors and media interest.

Welsh international and Lion, Scott Quinell said, "There's so many people here to see the Māori culture and I think its just absolutely wonderful that everybody embraces themselves not only in New Zealand but in culture as well and when the warriors challenged the Lions it was just fantastic to see that and seeing them come across the water. Yeah, my hairs were standing on the back of my head."

Bernard Te Paa of the NZ Māori Rugby Board says, "They wanted to experience things Māori and it's been a beautiful day and the right way to start their tour of our country to take on some of our top teams."

And while totally supportive of the event local Māori elders are concerned that true Māori protocol is not being adhered to.

Ngāpuhi elder Kingi Taurua says, "The purpose of the welcome ceremony is to lift the sacredness off our visitors before beginning their itinerary here.  But in this case they've already completed the first stage of the tour and are still sacred and today's ceremony will lift it.  But this is not our protocol and it must be addressed and fixed."

The Lions have spent three days in Northland and received their formal welcome here today but will depart for Auckland tomorrow on the next leg of the tour.

Te Paa says, "It's been very difficult to find time like this in their itinerary to complete the requirements of Māori protocol but this is a lesson and it will be addressed in future.

Lions fan Peter Buxon-Carr said, " Fantastic wasn't it,  what a wonderful emotional ceremony.  I mean it was intimidating, wonderful."