2 Feb 2016

Key's Waitangi confusion cleared up

7:01 pm on 2 February 2016

There should be no confusion over Te Tii Marae's invitation to Prime Minister John Key to attend its Waitangi commemorations, marae spokesperson says.

Ngapuhi kuia Titewhai Harawira extended an invitation to Mr Key's office today after a lengthy debate at the marae about whether he should come.

John Key is escorted onto Te Tii Marae at Waitangi by Ngapuhi kuia Titewhai Harawira (R) and Ngati Whatua leader Naida Glavish.

Ngapuhi kuia Titewhai Harawira takes Prime Minister John Key on to Te Tii Marae last year. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The invitation followed a lengthy hui on whether Mr Key should be welcomed on the marae if he signs the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal on Thursday.

Elder Kingi Taurua said most people decided to not invite Mr Key but the Te Tii Marae Trust later decided to ignore the vote.

Mr Key had said marae trustees were meeting tonight to agree on their position.

He said Te Tii Marae was the gateway to Waitangi and the Treaty grounds, so if he was not welcome or not permitted to speak then he would not go.

Instead, he would celebrate the country's national day in another part of the country.

But a spokesperson for the marae said he had been invited to speak and while it was holding another hui tonight, that was to discuss security on the day.

'Lots of shouting'

Ms Harawira said there was heated debate with "lots of shouting" for both sides of the argument at today's hui but that the powhiri would go ahead.

"The trustees and the haukainga said 'no, we are not turning our backs on the manuhiri no matter who they are'.

"They will come on as always and answer the questions that are put to them by the people."

Ms Harawira said she intended to walk Mr Key on to Te Tii Marae, and he would face questions from the people there as usual.

She had also invited him to the forum tent, to discuss political issues.

She said she had called Mr Key's office and extended an invitation to him but was yet to receive a response.

It would be the 10th time Ms Harawira had personally chaperoned a New Zealand prime minister - if Mr Key accepted her invitation.

She said it was important they had her by their side.

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MP for Te Taitokerau Kelvin Davis said the meeting, which began at 10am, was attended by about 60 people and was at times robust and emotional.

Mr Davis and former Taitokerau MP MP Dover Samuels both spoke in support of having the government attend the Te Tii Marae ceremony.

Te Kotahitanga o Nga Hapu Ngapuhi co-chairman Rudy Taylor, who attended the meeting, said Mr Key should be welcomed on the marae, as the only way the government could hear the voice of Ngapuhi was if it fronted up.

Mr Taylor said other marae might step in and welcome Mr Key to their commemorations if he was blocked from Te Tii Marae.

"This is about commemoration but one of the conditions is that he must also address the people of the hui, not inside, but outside, in terms of the TPPA."

Protesters gather at Waitangi

Protestors at Waitangi last year. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

A group of protesters will hikoi north from the TPP signing in Auckland and are expected at the Waitangi commemorations on Friday.

Mr Key has said he welcomed discussion about the TPP at Waitangi.

The controversy over the signing of the multi-national trade deal in Auckland on Thursday has extended to the official powhiri, with some iwi in the Tamaki Collective refusing to perform.

Ngati Whatua o Orakei, the mana whenua in Auckland central, has refused to participate because it believes the multinational trade deal will undermine the country's sovereignty. Ngati Paoa, Te Uri o Hau, Ngati Te Ata, Ngati Whanaunga and Ngati Whātua o Kaipara have also said they would not perform.

The trade deal dominated the Ratana gathering last month, with Maori leaders at the annual celebrations marking the birthday of the Ratana Church founder calling on the government to delay the signing.

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