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Prime Minister John Key says a protest where a sex toy was thrown at one of his senior ministers at Waitangi was "appalling".

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce was speaking to iwi leaders at Waitangi when a woman flung a pink dildo at him yesterday, hitting him right in the nose.

The woman was later identified as Josie Butler, of Christchurch, who called out "that's for raping our sovereignty", as she threw it.


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A brief history of Waitangi Day

Mr Joyce was one of a handful of ministers remaining in Waitangi after Prime Minister John Key pulled the pin on his plans to attend. Mr Key refused to visit with a "gagging order" in place by the leadership at Te Tii marae, barring him from speaking about politics, and because of the security risk with major TPP protests expected.

The Prime Minister this afternoon addressed media from the relatively subdued environment of Auckland's Stamford Plaza.

He called the incident "appalling".

"It's appalling because that image has gone around the world and there are now people in countries all over the world saying the way New Zealanders theoretically commemorate or celebrate their national day is with a senior politician having a sex toy thrown at them." He added that the protest was "crude and basic" on what should be a family occasion.

"The image that has now gone worldwide -- it's been one of the lead stories on the BBC, it's been huge media coverage around the world -- that's the way now that people from overseas are viewing how we have a celebration on our national day. It just isn't the right image for New Zealand."

Key said that his decision not to attend Waitangi Day celebrations had been vindicated.

"I always like going to the dawn service and I actually enjoy the whole event, I think it's important. But I actually think my decision not to go is vindicated because the reality is that I had a gagging order on me and then yesterday, Labour and the Greens -- two political parties that are opposed to TPP -- were allowed on the lower marae and spoke about their opposition to TPP.

"So I think most rational New Zealanders would say 'look, these things have got to run both ways. People have to have the right to protest and express their views if they have concerns and the Government's got to have the right to straighten those views up with what we think are the real facts of the situation."

A protester threw a sex toy at Economic Minister Steven Joyce at Waitangi.

Last night, Butler said on Facebook that she was out of custody and no charges had been laid.

While the incident gained huge attention in New Zealand, international media also joined in to joke at the incident. The New York Post even placed the story on the front page of its website this morning.

"It slapped against his lips and bounced off a nearby reporter's breasts -- before falling limply at their feet," it reported.

The Post described Mr Joyce's reaction: "The minister took it on the chin -- before making a quick withdrawal."

New Zealanders tell the Herald what Waitangi Day means to them.

British tabloids the Sun and the Daily Mail also joined in on the fun.

The latter described Mr Joyce as having "copped the sex toy on the chin".

Mr Joyce even invited comedian John Oliver to make fun of the incident, as he has of other incidents involving the John Key Government.

"Someone send the gif over to John Oliver so we can get it over with," he tweeted.