Kingitanga turns its attention to the future

By Yvonne Tahana

A waka taua flotilla will today paddle to the confluence of the Waipa and Waikato Rivers at Ngaruawahia, where Potatau te Wherowhero was crowned the first Maori King in 1858.

It is expected to be the busiest day so far of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Kingitanga.

Maori were yesterday taking the long view on the second day of celebrations.

Leading academic Pou Temara asked tribal leaders what they wanted the institution to look like in 150 years - did it stay as something tapu or did it evolve?

He said the danger with sacred Maori things was there was a tendency for them to become ordinary over time.

Questioning what the future looks like is a key theme for Maori at the gathering.

One of Maoridom's rising leaders, Che Wilson, 32, soaked up the speeches from the pae, where the orators sit, before speaking for his own Whanganui people.

Afterwards he called on the Kingitanga and its keepers, Waikato-Tainui, to show more leadership - because they were in a strategic position that many non-settlement iwi weren't in.

"We need leaders that are prepared to stand up and say controversial things. They are in a key position to lead us forward - they've got their settlement, their river deal is nearly done. They can afford to challenge what others can't."

Most major iwi were represented, but while the leaders were present, crowds stayed away from Turangawaewae Marae yesterday.

Prime Minister Helen Clark also attended. Sitting on Mahingarangi's verandah, she was flanked by the leader of the Ratana Church and Ngati Tuwharetoa's Timi te Heuheu.

She listened to five hours of speeches and then when it was her turn she joked that she was aware anything she said was taking place against the grumblings of people's stomachs.

While she underlined the unifying force of Kingitanga for iwi, she also took the opportunity to underscore the settlement success the Government had had since Christmas in reaching six Agreements in Principles - two under the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act - as well as pulling off the $500 million Treelord deal.

- NZ Herald

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