Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Ngapuhi elder now backs PM's Waitangi no show: 'I wouldn't go either'

A Ngapuhi elder says he wants to apologise to Prime Minister Bill English for calling him a "spoilt child" for not attending Waitangi - saying he now backs English's decision to stay away.

Kingi Taurua said since making his criticism of English he had seen a letter that was sent to the Prime Minister's office by the Waitangi Marae Organising Committee.

That stated that during the pre-Waitangi Day powhiri it was preferred that English's "Maori representatives" speak on his behalf. After the powhiri there would be another event where English and others could freely talk, including about political issues.

Taurua told the Herald that he had mistakenly believed that English had only been told he could not talk politics during the powhiri.

He now felt he had "egg on my face" after he called on English not to be "a spoilt child and run away", and wanted to meet the Prime Minister on his return from an official visit to Europe to offer an apology.

"I wouldn't go either. If I got that letter, telling me not to speak and to get somebody else to speak on my behalf, I wouldn't go anywhere near the place."

Taurua said there would be a meeting in Waitangi tomorrow.

"I want these guys [on the organising committee] out. I want these young bucks to get out. I want now the elderly people to take control of Waitangi Day.

"I'm not happy at all. A lot of the tribe are not happy."

English announced on Monday he will not attend Waitangi events at Te Tii Marae - saying it isn't acceptable to him that he can attend but not speak.

English will not attend the annual powhiri, and will celebrate Waitangi Day in Auckland - a decision that comes after John Key's no show last year.

Labour leader Andrew Little said, putting aside the lower marae visit, English should at the very least attend the dawn service at Waitangi on February 6.

English said he had accepted an invitation from the 60 iwi who comprise the Iwi Chair's Forum to lead a delegation of ministers to Waitangi on February 3.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett will lead a Government delegation to the dawn service in Waitangi on Waitangi Day.

Key pulled out of attending Waitangi last year, saying he had not had clarity on whether he could speak on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

At the time, Key said he had hoped to stick to his 2007 commitment to return every year, but said he wouldn't attend with a "gagging order".

Key instead spent Waitangi Day in Auckland at the NRL Auckland Nines tournament at Eden Park.

Government Minister Steven Joyce attended Waitangi, and was struck in the face by a pink dildo, thrown by anti-TPP protester Josie Butler. That incident made headlines around the world.

- NZ Herald

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