Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

John Key to celebrate Waitangi Day at NRL Auckland Nines

John Key will mark Waitangi Day in Auckland this year. Photo / Getty Images
John Key will mark Waitangi Day in Auckland this year. Photo / Getty Images

The Prime Minister will mark Waitangi Day by attending the NRL Auckland Nines tournament at Eden Park and other events in Auckland.

John Key had no official engagements today, as other politicians braved wet weather to attend Te Tii Marae at Waitangi.

A spokeswoman for Mr Key said he would spend tomorrow in Auckland.

"The Prime Minister will celebrate Waitangi Day in Auckland where he will attend a couple of events, including the NRL Auckland Nines."

On Thursday Mr Key announced he would not go to Waitangi this weekend -- the first time he has not done so since his first Waitangi Day as National Party leader in 2007, when he committed to return every year if he became Prime Minister.

It will mean there is no Prime Minister at all at Waitangi this year -- a rare occurrence that has not happened since Jim Bolger's reign in the 1990s when protests over the Treaty settlement process resulted in the official ceremonies being moved to Wellington.

Mr Key's decision followed controversy about whether to invite him at all followed by an attempt by the marae to say he could not speak on political issues.

The PM said that amounted to a gag and prevented him responding to claims of the expected TPP protesters.

After former Prime Minister Helen Clark decided not to return to Waitangi for commemorations, she celebrated Waitangi Day at Onuku Marae -- located on the Banks Peninsula and where South Island chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

The historic marae, 5km southwest of Akaroa, also witnessed a 1998 apology from the then Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, to Ngai Tahu, sealing the tribe's treaty settlement with the Crown.

- NZ Herald

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