Prime Minister John Key and his parliamentary colleagues had to wait in their cars while two kuia had a scrap about who would escort them on to Te Tii Marae at Waitangi.
What some marae officials called "negotiations" and others called an "embarrassment", at one stage saw Titewhai Harawira tell a kaumatua: "This has nothing to do with you". He replied: "Shut your bloody mouth, Titewhai."
Supporters of Mrs Harawira, who has undertaken the escort duties for about 10 years, and Ani Taurua, whom the marae had asked to do the honours yesterday, jostled verbally and physically to get their chosen one to the front.
In the end, Mrs Harawira, wearing duck egg blue, and Mrs Taurua, in purple, both walked the walk with their jostling supporters behind them.
One final push at the entrance to the famous meeting house, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, saw Mrs Taurua make it through the door first.
Mr Key, who never looks quite comfortable at the traditional pre-Waitangi Day powhiri at Te Tii, looked to be in considerable discomfort. Later in the meeting house, which is closed to the media but which plays the speeches through speakers to those outside, Mr Key distanced himself from the matter.
He said that what happened at Te Tii was for the people of the marae to decide.
"It's your day ... You will decide what this day looks like. I'll keep turning up," Mr Key said.
Because of the 40-minute holdup while Mrs Harawira fought to keep her role, the Opposition parties led by Labour leader David Shearer were late for their welcome.
When they did arrive they did so in style, not in Parliamentary BMWs but walking down the road in a phalanx as wide as the space between Te Tii Marae and the foreshore. In contrast to Mr Key, Mr Shearer, fresh from his overwhelming endorsement as party leader, was relaxed and smiling.
Marae elder Kingi Taurua didn't try to gloss over the embarrassing debacle that occurred earlier at the gate.
"I feel bad about the whole thing, and sad. It is whakama [embarrassing]," Mr Taurua said.
Mana party leader Hone Harawira later said he felt the marae trustees had handled the matter badly by deciding too close to the day to change the Prime Minister's escort. He said he felt loyalty toward both women "who had been put in a difficult position".
"One is my mum, the other is my aunty," Mr Harawira said.