Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says it was "an honour and a little scary'' to become the first woman political leader to speak at Waitangi.

Mrs Turei spoke during the powhiri for Labour and Green MPs at Te Tii Marae this afternoon.

Former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark was given the opportunity to speak at the marae the day before Waitangi Day several years ago but was shouted down by protesters.

"I think I was given this honour because the Green Party has had such a consistent commitment to Maori issues.''

Advertisement

The Green Party's core messages were around "our kids, our lands and our oceans and how we can protect and sustain them are important issues for Maori''.

The fact she was able to speak "just shows that Maori cultural process is able to have Maori women be involved in the powhiri to speak and to sit on the front row of the paepae''.

"Maori culture is a living culture not one set in stone.''

Labour Leader David Cunliffe emerged from the powhiri praising the "extremely warm and extremely generous, very heartwarming'' welcome he and his colleagues received.

Any trace of resentment from Te Tii's elders over the foreshore and seabed issue which marred Labour's relationship with Maori for many years was gone he said.

However, "we acknowledge we have to rebuild trust''.

Mr Cunliffe said this year's celebrations had special significance because it was the 40th anniversary of Labour Prime Minister Norman Kirk's creation of the New Zealand Day holiday, later changed to Waitangi Day.

"He made it clear that it was part of Labour's kaupapa that it would always govern to honour the treaty and help the interests of all New Zealanders. Today we reaffirm that is still part of our kaupapa. We have a lot of work to do to deliver on that.''