Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Mixed messages from Waitangi hosts

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Treaty House at the Waitangi treaty grounds. Photo / Francesca Jago
Treaty House at the Waitangi treaty grounds. Photo / Francesca Jago

The news that the trustees of Te Tii Marae overturned their original vote and have decided to let John Key on to their marae will be a great disappointment to many. The chance for the Prime Minister to go to another part of New Zealand, to be treated with respect, to be welcome, to part of something positive was an attractive alternative. Tuhoe perhaps?

Stay away from Te Tii, was the original decision, which must have horrified protesters. That had the potential to turn Key into a figure of sympathy.

Do come, Titewhai Harawira then told his office.

Come but don't speak, appeared to be the next decision.

Come but speak in Hone Harawira's tent at a political forum (with Jane Kelsey and Annette Sykes) appears to be the latest decision. Who knows what the next one will be?

Come and speak in Hone's tent but only if you say you oppose the TPP?

The annual shambles at Te Tii highlights the problems of the north. Nga Puhi may be the biggest iwi in the country but it is bereft of strong leaders and is riven with rivalries that are preventing its own Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

The notion that the annual shambles at Te Tii is a natural part of Waitangi Day doesn't wash. That sounds as convincing as Andrew Little saying its party's splits over TPP are just part of the "rambunctious" family fights of the Labour Party.

The latest ruling denying Mr Key a chance to speak on the marae will be a fair one if it is applied equally to all visitors. It will be fair if the hosts themselves don't lecture Key on the paepae but refuse him a right of reply.

It will be fair if Key would still be welcome if he doesn't want to give a speech at all.
But it would give Key a chance to actually read the part of the TPP about the Treaty of Waitangi, which says exactly the same thing as every other trade agreement both Labour and National have signed - the Government reserves the rights to give Maori favourable treatment under its Treaty of Waitangi obligations.

Then there's the other part about WAI 262, the Waitangi Tribunal Report into flora and fauna that says New Zealand alone does not have sign up to the international convention on plant IP that others agree to and instead it has three years from the start of TPP to address Wai 262.

The clip of Hone Harawira on television last night saying he would personally guarantee Key his personal safety at Te Tii was both horrifying and comforting. If he has to say it all, that is a worry.

But if anyone can give Mr Key safe passage on the marae it would be Mr Harawira. At least he is showing a modicum of leadership up there.

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Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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