Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Waitangi celebrations start with scuffle

The Governor-General believes protesters "disrespected" his role but not him as an individual during an altercation outside the whare at Te Tii Marae at Waitangi today.

Sir Jerry Mateparae has denied reports he was jostled during the heated exchange, which came as he and his wife were welcomed onto the marae this morning.

They were trying to enter the whare accompanied by Titewhai Harawira when her daughter - veteran Maori protester Hinewhare Harawira - and another protester appeared to block his entry.

Ms Harawira, sister of Mana MP Hone Harawira, was denied entry to the whare but could be heard yelling at Sir Jerry.

Sir Jerry told Radio New Zealand he did not feel threatened but his role had been disrespected.

"There is an element of disrespect ... in terms of, not the individual, but the role and the position. So in that regard, yes, there has been disrespect.

But in terms of the individual I am comfortable with what has happened here today.

"I didn't feel threatened and indeed if I did I would have told them and voiced my concerns. I didn't do that, I didn't feel I needed to do that."

Sir Jerry said people had the right to air their grievances and to be noisy at Waitangi.

"On a marae it is about voicing your opinions and everyone has a different opinion and at the end of the day when it's all discussed, done and dusted people can feel a lot better once the issue has been voiced."

The Governor-General earlier said on Twitter: "My being jostled at Waitangi is news to me. I'm enjoying the scenery, the people and the day so far! Visiting HMNZS Wellington tonight."

Prime Minister John Key this afternoon condemned the actions of those involved.

"Having a few protesters or radicals effectively jostling the Governor-General is undignified, it's unwarranted and, frankly, outright wrong," he told reporters in Auckland this afternoon.

"Most people go to Waitangi to have a great time but there are one or two people that go to cause trouble and use the media to advance their own causes and their own issues.

Mr Key later released a statement clarifying that his use of the word jostling was based on media reports and direct assertions from media that the Governor-General had been jostled.

"It's obvious from media reports some kind of situation occurred and regardless of what happened exactly, it's unfortunate the Governor-General's arrival was overshadowed by this."

Waitangi elder Kingi Taurua said it would have been better for Ms Harawira and any other protesters to address Sir Jerry face to face rather than shouting at him.

"By doing that he closed his ears to their concerns, so for me ... it would really have been better for the protesters to come inside and approach the Governor-General and then they can hear what he has to say."

He said Ms Harawira had been trespassed from the marae in the past.

Te Tii Marae, where politicians traditionally go for a pre-Waitangi Day powhiri, has been the scene of heated protests in previous years.

Mr Key will call there tomorrow.

- APNZ

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