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

TPP stand off: Division over whether John Key will be blocked from Te Tii Marae

Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua says a hui to decide whether John Key should be allowed onto Te Tii Marae is still underway but appeared to be leaning toward inviting him on. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua says a hui to decide whether John Key should be allowed onto Te Tii Marae is still underway but appeared to be leaning toward inviting him on. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Maori leaders are divided over whether Prime Minister John Key will be blocked from going onto Te Tii marae at Waitangi.

Marae elder Kingi Taurua said the final decision was made not to invite Mr Key onto the marae at a hui today.

"They put it to the vote and the vote decided it, not to allow him on."

He said the Prime Minister was yet to be told of the decision, but "somebody will though".

However, Te Kotahitanga co-chairman Rudy Taylor, who was also at the hui, was certain that the final decision was to welcome Mr Key on to the marae.

A majority had wanted him blocked when a vote was taken, Mr Taylor said, but the trustees had ultimately sided with the minority.

"It was a robust, challenging issue ... he will be welcomed onto the marae," Mr Taylor said.

"That is the decision of the trustees and the people that supported it, at the end, they said [Mr Key] will be welcomed onto the marae."

Mr Taylor said he was angry about a lack of consultation about the TPP, but it was the right decision to still welcome the Prime Minister, "and I'm glad that happened".

John Key says he is still unsure whether he is invited onto Te Tii Marae, but if he is not says he will spend Waitangi Day elsewhere.

Mr Key said his office had been called by Titewhai Harawira to invite him onto the marae after a hui today, but he was also aware Maori trustees of the marae were divided.

Mr Key said he had attended every year and still hoped to do so again.

He usually also attended other functions at Waitangi, such as the Dawn Service and meetings with iwi leaders.

However, he said tikanga was that Te Tii was the 'gateway' to events at Waitangi.

"Therefore if I'm not welcome onto the lower marae, I will not gatecrash other events at Waitangi and will spend Waitangi Day in another part of the country."

He said if the marae trustees invited him he would attend, but otherwise he would not.

Mr Key's comments follow a hui held at the marae today to decide whether he would be able to attend after objections over the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Confusion has reigned after that hui, with some marae officials saying he would be banned while others said he would be welcome but not allowed to speak.

Mr Key said he had committed to go every year when he was in 2007 and intended to see that out if he could, but part of that was being able to set out the Government's position.

Mr Key said if he would also not attend if he was not able to speak.

"It's pretty insulting isn't it?"

He said that would mean he was unable to set out the Government's position or try to correct anything he believed had been misconstrued.

Mr Key said he expected other ministers would still attend iwi leaders' meetings in Waitangi if he was not there.

He was unsure whether other ministers would go onto Te Tii Marae if he was not there.

Although former Prime Minister Helen Clark had sometimes missed Te Tii Marae but gone to other events, Mr Key said it was tikanga to go to Te Tii first.

He said Ms Clark had not attended the Dawn Service "because she didn't like early mornings."

- NZ Herald

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