Moving Waitangi celebrations 'won't stop conflict'

11:47 am on 7 February 2013

Guardians of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds say the argy bargy, feuding and petty politics surrounding New Zealand's national day would occur no matter where it was held.

Local Maori elders have suggested if the official welcome (powhiri) for politicians was moved away from the Waitangi marae to the meeting house on the Treaty grounds, it could stop those who cause trouble from turning up.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister John Key was kept waiting for 45 minutes while kuia at the entrance to the marae argued over who would escort him - which even led to some pushing and shoving.

In the end, a deal was mediated by Ngati Whatua kuia, Naida Glavish, allowing for Titewhai Harawira and another kuia, Ani Taurua, to share the job.

Past years have been marred by protests and aggressive behaviour, including an attack on the Prime Minister.

But Waitangi Trust Board chairperson Pita Paraone says if the celebrations were moved, conflicts would continue regardless.

"Nothing would change in terms of the peripheral activities to the debate that would take place, because all you would be changing is the locality."

Mr Paraone said the Treaty of Waitangi was plagued by debate and conflict when it was signed in 1840.

Speaking on Wednesday morning, John Key said there remains a small but vocal few who are unable or unwilling to see the world through any other lens than that of Maori-disadvantaged.

But Maori Council co-chair Maanu Paul says people need to look at the underlying reasons for protests at Waitangi.

Mr Paul said there is a dissatisfied part of the nation needing to communicate as Treaty partners, and Maori seeking justice have every right to raise issues at public forums where the Government is represented.

Mr Paul told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Thursday when Mr Key does not communicate, then he is denigrating and making a mockery of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Squabble made Maori look silly - Peters

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the dispute over who should escort the Prime Minister onto the marae at Waitangi made Maori look silly.

Mr Peters told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Thursday the incident was an unseemly squabble that should have been sorted out behind closed doors.

He believed it made the Ngapuhi iwi look stupid among the rest of Maoridom, and Maori look silly to non-Maori.

The dispute received undue media coverage and the focus instead should be on serious problems facing Maori including unemployment, he said.