We could host the politicians, Treaty Grounds boss says

By Peter de Graaf -
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Calls are mounting to move the pre-Waitangi Day politicians' welcoming ceremony from Te Tii Marae to Te Whare Runanga, the carved meeting house, on the Treaty Grounds. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Calls are mounting to move the pre-Waitangi Day politicians' welcoming ceremony from Te Tii Marae to Te Whare Runanga, the carved meeting house, on the Treaty Grounds. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The Treaty Grounds could be willing to host the annual pre-Waitangi Day welcome for politicians if asked to do so, a Treaty Grounds manager says.

Sunday's fiasco at Te Tii Marae, in which media were barred from covering the politicians' powhiri or the discussions that followed in a political forum tent, has sparked calls for the annual welcome to be shifted to Te Whare Runanga, the carved meeting house on the Treaty Grounds.

Those calling for the move include NZ First MP Pita Paraone, whose party leader, Winston Peters, refused to go on to the marae. Mr Paraone is also chairman of the Waitangi National Trust Board which administers the Treaty Grounds.

Mori Rapana, visitor experiences manager at the Treaty Grounds and key organiser of Monday's festivities, said the organisation had the capacity to host the welcome.

"I definitely think it is something the Treaty Grounds would look at if we were formally approached by a government agency. At the end of the day, it would be up to the board to decide."

One of the advantages of holding the welcome in Te Whare Runanga was that it was a whare-a-iwi, a house representing many tribes.

One possible factor behind the problems at Te Tii is that three committees all claim some form of authority at the marae.

Mr Rapana said he was not sure of the cause, "but for the nation's sake I hope Te Tii Marae can come together under one banner, one whakaaro [thought], to produce the manaakitanga [hospitality] they've been known for in the past".

Meanwhile, this year's commemorations at the Treaty Grounds had been a great success with a "real air of kotahitanga [unity]" he said.

He put the lower than usual visitor numbers, about 20,000, despite unbroken sunshine, down to Waitangi Day falling on a Monday. The highest turnout, especially by out-of-town visitors, was when the day fell on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Mr Rapana was grateful to the large number of people who had helped make the day a success.

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