Farce fear in activist escort


A Ngapuhi elder is predicting chaos and possible violence if controversial Maori activist Titewhai Harawira tries to escort Prime Minister John Key on to Te Tii Marae in Waitangi for Waitangi Day commemorations.

Of two clashes of culture capable of defining this year's Waitangi Day events, one is little more than a hen fight and the other could help define ownership of this country's natural resources.

Yet the first issue is already the headliner and the second has hardly made it to print.

Some Te Tii Marae trustees are reportedly reluctant to have Mrs Harawira - a controversial and divisive figure, mother of Mana Party leader Hone Harawira and grandmother of Waitangi Day's most disruptive.

protesters in recent years, Wi and John Popata - has indicated she will not go quietly.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Maori Council will be holding a meeting at Waitangi during the commemorations and that is likely to ensure rights to water and other resources stays high on the nation's and Maoridom's political and cultural agenda.

The council has gone to the Waitangi Tribunal then the High Court to delay the partial sale of State-owned enterprises until the issue of proprietary rights to water and geothermal resources is settled. Having lost its challenge to the Government's assets-sales plan, the council's High Court appeal was heard last week. Those findings are pending.

Te Runanga-a-iwi o Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau would not comment on the council's meeting at Waitangi but said, "Waitangi is the place to have these political discussions."

The Iwi Leaders Forum, which met every year at Waitangi, had its own work cut out for it, he said. "All I know is that a few of us leaders are working together for unity on many issues." As for the will-she-won't-she fuss about Mrs Harawira, Mr Tau would not comment on whether it could see protocol plummet into farce.

Marae trustee and Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua has said it is time Mrs Harawira stepped aside, while trustee Rihari Dargaville diplomatically proposed that two kuia share the role. It is understood other kuia from the marae have declined to do the high-profile walk-on after Mrs Harawira let them know she would not stand aside.

Outspoken leader of Ngapuhi's Matarahurahu hapu David Rankin described the pecking-order brouhaha as "cultural chaos at Waitangi".

"If Titewhai tries to bully her way in as she has in the past, there will be total chaos at Waitangi this year, and this may even erupt into violence with Maori pitted against Maori.

"(Titewhai's) culture is based around media coverage and radicalism, not what is true Maori tikanga. There are plenty of kuia from other areas who could fulfil that role and come on with John Key as a guest. That is the correct protocol. Maori across the country, as well as those in Ngapuhi, laugh every time Te Tii Marae embarrasses itself by throwing out its protocols because they feel threatened by the Harawiras standover tactics."

- Northern Advocate

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