Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

PM narrowly avoids cold shoulder at Waitangi

Waka crews perform a Tautoko as Waka crews set off for some last minute training on the Waitangi River as Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae is welcomed at Te Tii Marae. Photo / Getty Images
Waka crews perform a Tautoko as Waka crews set off for some last minute training on the Waitangi River as Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae is welcomed at Te Tii Marae. Photo / Getty Images

While anti-mining protesters are planning a torrid welcome for John Key at Waitangi tomorrow, the Prime Minister was close to receiving the cold shoulder from Te Tii Marae this year, Ngapuhi kaumatua Kingi Taurua says.

Visiting politicians have been a magnet for heated protest at their traditional speaking engagement the day before Waitangi Day at the marae several hundred metres down the road from the Treaty grounds.

This morning saw a scuffle as Hinewhare Harawira - sister of Mana Party Leader Hone Harawira - attempted to prevent Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae from going on to the marae.

Mr Taurua today confirmed the decision to allow Mr Key and other politicians to speak this year was only narrowly agreed.

Those opposed to Mr Key speaking believed the Treaty was not being honoured, he told the Herald.

"They only pick pieces of the Treaty when they want to and they don't consult, they don't talk to us about it and they just go ahead and make the process, for example the asset sales."

However a narrow majority "felt that this is the only opportunity for us to express our feelings about the Government if they come on.

"Others say that if we stop them coming on the country will ask why and then we can tell them."

While the Government has favoured the Iwi Leaders Forum as a key group through which to engage with Maori, Mr Taurua questioned that group's mandate. The forum this morning began a two-day meeting at Waitangi's Copthorne Hotel.

But Mr Taurua questioned their mandate to represent Maori.

"We don't know what their discussions are, we don't know what they're talking about because they didn't even come in here (to Te Tii) today.

"They went straight to the Copthorne and they're waiting for the Prime Minister. The policy is they're not supposed to drive past here they're supposed to come on to the marae and be welcomed here before they move on. They don't come on because they'll be challenged, for the fact is that they are also undermining the Treaty."

When he arrives at Te Tii tomorrow Mr Key will be met by a hikoi opposed to mining in Northland, which the Prime Minister will tomorrow endorse in his speech as an opportunity to develop the sluggish Northland economy.

But Bryce Smith, a spokesman for Te Wakameninga o nga hapu Ngapuhi, a group which opposes mining told the Herald that protesters were ready "to elaborate" on previous protests.

"Our people are going to deliver a strong message. Key's not going to get it, he never does, none of them ever do. He's not coming to listen.

"My message to him is don't come."

On a more gentler note Education Minister Hekia Parata and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, along with Mr Taurua and other kaumatua and kuia were among those at a Kawe Mate or tribute to former Labour Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia at Te Tii today.

Mr Horomia, who died in April last year was remembered fondly in a series of speeches which drew many smiles and much laughter.

"I didn't used to like coming here with Parekura", Mr Harawira said in tribute to Mr Horomia's standing at the marae.

"Everyone would say hello to him and not to me."

- NZ Herald

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