Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Key calls for Te Tii marae visits to remain

Nga Puhi elders at Te Tii Marae the day before Waitangi Day. Photo / Natalie Slade
Nga Puhi elders at Te Tii Marae the day before Waitangi Day. Photo / Natalie Slade

Prime Minister John Key said it would be disappointing if the traditional politicians' visits to Te Tii Marae before Waitangi Day were halted.

The marae's chairman, Rihari Dargaville, said yesterday that it was considering stopping the powhiri for politicians after protesters shouted the Prime Minister down this weekend.

Mr Key said that did not mean the visits should stop, saying February 5 was an important day for the Government to front up at Te Tii Marae and account to the people there.

"My preference would be to be able to come on to the Lower Marae the day before Waitangi Day and give the Government's account of events and engage in debate.

"The whole issue with the Treaty is that it has an ongoing place in our society and it's important for both the Crown and Maori to have an opportunity to debate those issues.

"We won't always agree, but that is a forum where we can do that."

He said it was unfortunate the "silly actions" of a few protesters yesterday effectively hijacked that opportunity but that did not mean it should stop.

However, Labour leader David Shearer seemed to think the idea had some merit, saying politicians could always visit Te Tii Marae on less contentious days than the day before Waitangi Day.

He refused to commit to return to Te Tii marae, despite the trouble-free weekend he had had.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira scoffed at the suggestion of ditching the day altogether, saying there were other ways of ensuring it ran smoothly or that protests did not derail it.

Three hikoi and a faceoff by protesters who wanted to run the tino rangatiratanga flag up the Treaty Grounds flagpole kept Maori wardens - who police lauded as unsung heroes - busy.

They held their ground at the base of the flagstaff as 100 protesters argued that the flag be allowed to fly.

In protest terms it was a throwback to yesteryear, as the trend has been in recent times for marchers simply to walk around the Treaty grounds before departing.

There was an edge of violence to the group as it moved towards the flagpole.

Wikitana Popata, who has been convicted of assaulting the Prime Minister, urged the disparate group of Occupy Auckland, tino rangatiratanga marchers, anti-asset sales and poverty protesters to push through a Navy kapa haka group, bystanders and media to get to the flagpole.

The annual haka on the beach and hauling in of Ngatokimatawhaorua, the country's largest waka, drew large, happy crowds.

One American visitor to Waitangi, Joe Morgenstern, said he had loved every minute of the day.

"I'm liking the easy, agreed upon dedication to multiculturalism. It's very moving."

- NZ Herald

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