PM defiant after being shoved by protester at Waitangi

By Claire Trevett

Prime Minister John Key has been pushed and shoved as he arrived at Te Tii Waitangi marae this morning but says it will not stop him returning in future.

As he got out of his car, he was approached by two men and manhandled.

One man was carrying a Maori flag and one of the men said the Prime Minister was not doing enough for Maori.

"Don't believe you are coming on here, mate," one of the men said before they were both pushed away by Diplomatic Protection Squad members.

As they were removed, one yelled out: "Without our protest we wouldn't have Te Reo. Without our protest we wouldn't have kura kaupapa."

Mr Key looked shaken after the incident but told reporters he did not want it blown out of proportion.

Mr Key said on the marae later: "When I got out of the car a couple of young guys tried to thump me.

"Well, I have got a message for them, if they think it is going to stop me coming back next year and again and again they can think again because I am a lot of things but I am not a quitter.

"They were out of step with what the majority of people think."

He said tomorrow, Waitangi Day, would be a day of celebration on the marae which would be about "dialogue and understanding each others' points of view, not thumping each other".

Kingi Taurua, speaking for the marae side, apologised for the push on Mr Key saying: "We are very disappointed, I am disappointed because it doesn't bring good to the mana of the marae, so I would like to apologise."

Two men are being spoken to by police over the incident.

Far North Area Commander Inspector Chris Scahill says they are being questioned at Paihia Police Station.

He says police are determining exactly what happened before they decide what charges the men will face.

Delayed

Earlier there was a heated debate between marae staff and police, after two officers breached an agreement that they would not take photographs on the marae.

When confronted a policewoman and a policeman said they were news media or tourists, but could not produce identification to that effect.

When attempts were made to take their camera, the standoff intensified.

A third officer arrived - similarly dressed in shorts and a casual shirt, wearing a backpack and a radio earpiece - and the debate moved to the back of the marae.

On the Waitangi waterfront as the marae prepared for Mr Key's arrival, 19 waka made a ceremonial departure.

They included six Tainui waka brought up from Waikato because the Maori King, King Tuheitia, was at the weekend commemorations.

King Tuheitia, the eldest son of the late Maori queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, was making the first visit to Waitangi by a Maori monarch for many years.

Many commentators had believed this year will be quieter than on some occasions after Mr Key made encouraging noises about issues such as flying a Maori sovereignty flag from the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Today he was due to walk through a tent city next door to the marae before lunching with the Waitangi National Trust Board.

He is also due to meet with Maori leaders and tomorrow morning is to attend the dawn service at the Whare Runanga, the meeting house in the Treaty House grounds.

Tomorrow he is due to board the double-hulled waka Te Aurere to view the mass launch of waka from Te Tii beach.

He is also due to meet Maori health providers.

- with NZPA

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