Waitangi standoff: 'Woman bashers' accusation

By Yvonne Tahana, Claire Trevett

Titewhai Harawira has accused kaumatua at Te Tii Marae of being "women bashers''.

She made the remark after leaving the whare this morning, following Prime Minister John Key's powhiri which was delayed by 40 minutes because of a stand-off over whether she or another kuia, Ani Taurua, would bring on the Prime Minister.

She claimed not to know why there was a delay despite standing in the middle of tense negotiations beforehand.

Mrs Taurua had been the marae's choice and Mrs Harawira had been asked to stand aside.

"It was just a delay about discussions with the trustees... I really don't know and I'm really not concerned,'' Mrs Harawira said.

Asked whether she had spoken to Mrs Taurua and if the showdown was an embarrassing spat, she said: "No, there's been no fights.

It hasn't been about the kuia.''

She rejected a suggestion that the Harawira family were bullies.

"I really don't want to respond to that rubbish, I'm here about the Treaty and that sort of violent discussion is not part of that.''

When it was put to her that even as late as last night she was not wanted by the trustees, she said: "I have no idea, you'll have to take it up with those women bashers''.

Te Tii Marae kaumatua Kingi Taurua said he was disgusted by the "woman basher'' allegation from Mrs Harawira.

"You know anybody who opposes Titewhai, always she makes accusations, and that's her culture,'' he said.

After lengthy negotiations this morning, Mrs Harawira managed to get Mr Key's left hand first, and other kuia Naida Glavish and Mrs Taurua - the marae's choice of escort - stood in a line alongside her.

There was some yelling - one man called out "if you don't own it, you can't sell it".

But the most upset was about Mrs Harawira escorting the Prime Minister, with one man yelling out "tikanga o Te Tii" to protest it.

As the time drew near for Mr Key to arrive at the marae this morning, Mrs Harawira could be seen standing at one side of the entrance surrounded by family members and with top Maori policeman Superintendent Wally Haumaha in attendance, and Mrs Taurua standing some distance away on the other side.

Mr Haumaha could be heard urging Mrs Harawira's daughter Hinewhare to step to one side at one point, saying "no violence, no violence we are not going to put the Prime Minister in this position".

Mrs Harawira was flanked by family, including Hinewhare and one of her sons.

As the stand-off between the two kuia continued, onlookers also took sides - some supporting Mrs Taurua's claim by calling out "Kia Kaha aunty".

The Herald understands that police told the Harawira family they were holding the whole country to ransom.

At one point marae kaumatua Kingi Taurua pointed at the Harawira group and began shouting at them.

The kuia in the stand-off appeared to have reached a deal to share the job after some tension.

The impasse was broken only after a further testy exchange when Mr Taurua proposed a compromise, drawing a stiff rebuke from Mrs Harawira of "no Kingi, get out" as the women began singing to drown him out.

After a further attempt, Mr Taurua's patience snapped and he told Mrs Harawira to "shut your bloody mouth".

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira's wife Hilda Halkyard-Harawira told the Herald the women had sorted it, as they should. "It's their business."

As Mr Key was escorted on, Mrs Harawira was next to him and Mrs Taurua was close by.

Someone close to the kuia said: "Hinewhare stop pushing me", to Mrs Harawira's daughter.

Mr Key told the people at Te Tii Marae that he would continue to turn up each year regardless of what they threw at him.

He also set out what effectively amounted to a challenge to them not to waste the chance of getting his ear.

Speaking after being welcomed on this morning, Mr Key ended his speech by reminding them he had pledged in 2006 to return to Te Tii each year while he was Prime Minister while other politicians avoided it.

He said that since then some years had been smoother than others and last year he had been shouted down by protesters when he tried to speak.

"I don't control the process. Ngapuhi and the people of this marae control this process ... You in the end will decide what the point of the day looks like.

"I'll keep turning up. You can decide what you do with it."

He said he believed it was a valuable opportunity for discussion and stood by his commitment.

"How will history judge me? History will judge me well because I come back year after year."

He also urged the iwi involved in the Te Hiku collective to sort out their differences and move toward a settlement, saying it would inject as much as $200 million into an area that greatly needed it.

- NZ Herald

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