Prime Minister John Key says he is expecting a "rough" reception at Waitangi this year as he walks into a hotbed of issues.
Mr Key will make his ninth annual visit to Te Tii marae on Thursday and marae elder Kingi Taurua said he could expect challenges on the flag, the handling of the Ngapuhi settlement, and a Waitangi Tribunal finding that Ngapuhi did not cede their sovereignty when they signed the Treaty.
Mr Key said he was expecting it to be "rough". "Down on Te Tii Marae it's normally a pretty robust sort of environment. I've had everything from someone taking a swing at me, right through to being shouted down and being held up for hours before going on there."
However, he said he was not concerned about his safety and it provided the opportunity for the Government to put its case. "I think we get some marks for constantly turning up year after year, we have good engagement with local iwi up there. So I'm never going to shy away because it will be robust on Te Tii Marae."
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Mr Taurua said Waitangi was a place for people to voice their opinions. "That is what Waitangi is about. It's a place where each person with an issue can raise it with the Government. That's the only opportunity they have."
A repeat of the infamous kuia standoff of 2013 has been averted - the marae decided in advance Titewhai Harawira would retain her role of walking Mr Key on.
One unknown factor this year is Mrs Harawira's son, Hone Harawira. It will be the first Waitangi celebrations since Mr Harawira was voted out as Te Tai Tokerau MP in favour of Labour's Kelvin Davis.
Mr Harawira has kept a low profile since then and did not respond to messages yesterday. Mr Taurua said he had also been unable to contact him. "So we don't know whether he's going to raise an issue. Let Hone do the talking."
He did expect him to attend but did not know what the reaction of Mr Harawira's supporters would be to the politicians attending.