National leader Bill English says he won't be returning to Waitangi on Waitangi Day if he is re-elected Prime Minister - unless changes are made.

English said any decision would be made if National was returned to power, but he was likely to spend the national day in another location, as he did this year by attending a Ngati Whatua event in Orakei.

"As I indicated last year, after I became Prime Minister, it was my view that Waitangi Day did not represent well the history of partnership between Maori and Pakeha in New Zealand," he told reporters while campaigning in Botany Downs today.

A member of the public had earlier raised the issue with English.


"I think the person who raised it with me said how much they enjoyed Waitangi Day at Orakei," he said.

After the successful event at Orakei this year, English said there had been a lot of demand to "take Waitangi on the road" and hold events in a new place each year.

English said that before he returned to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the hosts of the occasion at Te Tii Marae needed to demonstrate they could run an event "worthy of the achievements of this country with respect to the Treaty of Waitangi".

He was not "throwing away history" but making sure the day was "observed in a way which New Zealanders are proud of".

English declined an invitation to attend an event on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds this year because the organising committee told him he would not be allowed to speak.

His predecessor, John Key, pulled out of the 2016 event at Waitangi for the first time since he became Prime Minister because of similar concerns.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said she would spend Waitangi Day at Waitangi if she became Prime Minister.

"Since I've been a Member of Parliament, almost every Waitangi I have gone north for the Waitangi celebrations and I will continue to do so."


Her experiences at Waitangi had always been positive, she said.

"Robust exchanges, good discussion and dialogue, but that's what Waitangi is all about."

She did not criticise English's position, saying it was up to him.