Veteran activist Titewhai Harawira took pride of place next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today in the Cabinet room in the seat Winston Peters normally occupies.

At the other end of the room was a smartly dressed young man, Wikatana Popata, who was convicted of assaulting John Key in 2009 at Waitangi.

There were five Labour Cabinet ministers, Kelvin Davis, the Minister of Crown-Māori Relations, Grant Robertson, Nanaia Mahuta, Andrew Little and Megan Woods.

None of the four New Zealand First Cabinet ministers were present. No iwi leaders were there.


It was supposed to symbolise a partnership between the Crown and Māori. The Government had invited Māori into the heart of Government.

The media arrived for an announcement on the Crown-Māori relationship.

But the announcement appeared to have been delayed because the only announcement Ardern made was that the Cabinet had decided that the group present would be the final submitters before the Cabinet made final decisions.

"We also need to make sure that we are true to that partnership in the way that we operate as a Government," said Ardern.

"The minister, in designing this portfolio and the remit that he has as a minister, decided he wanted to start as he meant to continue," Ardern said.

Davis has held 20 hui to discuss Crown-Māori relations and work out what his job should be. He then formed a post-hui group and half of that group were in the Cabinet room.

Titiwhai Harawira and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Audrey Young
Titiwhai Harawira and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Audrey Young

Invited to speak by Ardern, Harawira said the day was not only the beginning of Māori language week but the beginning of a Crown-Māori partnership.

"I am so proud to be sitting here today after years of struggle and shouting and carrying on and 'who-loves-you-darling?' at the end of the progress that we've made today.


"It is the first stepping stone in making some decision together," Harawira said.

She said Kelvin Davis had the shoulder and backbone to give the new portfolio a go. She would be there to support him.

"Let's just sit down and talk to one another and see what we can do that's going to bring about something different for the whole of our country."

Popata, who was there with his young son Genesis Nepe Popata, said that when he had attended one of Davis' hui in Kaitaia, he had a different attitude to the one he had today.

"My attitude I didn't want a partnership with the Crown ... I said a New Zealand Government should give us the resources and let us stand on our own two feet, let us take care of ourselves whanau and hapu.

"But after meeting with these great leaders in te ao Māori, minister Kelvin, I do see the benefits of this partnership our tipuna wanted when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi. This was the kind of relationship they wanted, so I commend you Prime Minister and your team on taking this journey and coming into our world."

Ardern later told reporters she expected final decisions to be signed off in a couple of weeks.

The visitors in the Cabinet room were Harawira and her daughter Hinewhare, Traci Houpapa, Tarina MacDonald, Natalie Coates, Popata and his son Genesis and Tawhirimatea Griffiths.