Labour leader David Shearer has proposed changing the honours system so that Waitangi Honours are handed out instead of Queens' Birthday or New Year's honours.

Mr Shearer made the suggestion after the dawn service in Wellington today. He has previously called for a more celebratory Waitangi Day, after protests de-railed Prime Minister John Key's welcome onto Te Tii Marae.

"I think it should be a national day we actually celebrate. I'd like to see, for example, our honours list come out on Waitangi Day rather than Queen's Birthday or New Year. I'd like to see us talk about the great things New Zealanders have done. It's too often focussed on the negative and not the positive."

Mr Shearer escaped the protests on Te Tii Marae which Prime Minister John Key had seen.


Mr Shearer said it was becoming increasingly untenable for the Maori Party to stay on in a formal agreement with National after the Maori Party issued a call for iwi to take the Government to Court over state asset sales.

"If they are going to be putting the Iwi Leaders' Group up to take court action, it's very difficult to sustain a position where they are still in a coalition with National. It's a very difficult situation for them now - if the Treaty of Waitangi is fundamental to them I can't see how they can ask others to take action and still stay in a coalition."

The Maori Party's agreement with National allows them to oppose the partial state asset sales planned for four energy companies. Mr Shearer said the Maori Party had its own bargaining chip to play to secure section nine's protection: walking away from National.

He said the party was obviously important to National and if the Maori Party left, it would leave National with a majority of only one. "That would leave Act holding the balance of power. I don't think they would want to be in that situation."