A protester throwing a sex toy at a government minister is now the global image of Waitangi Day, Prime Minister John Key says.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce was hit in the face with the rubber missile while giving a news conference at Waitangi yesterday.
Mr Key, who is not at Waitangi after being denied speaking rights there, said his decision not to attend was vindicated by yesterday's events.
The incident has made international headlines and it's sad that that is the impression people overseas have of New Zealand's national day, he said.
Mr Key said he hoped to return to Waitangi next year, provided he was given the same rights he's had in previous years. He would be attending the NRL Auckland Nines today instead.
Mr Joyce - who attended the dawn service today to offer the prayer normally given by the prime minister - said he was certain Mr Key would return to Waitangi next year if he was allowed to speak as usual on the marae.
Mr Key had been keen to be at Waitangi this year but could not accept the condition set by the marae trustees that he could not speak of politics at the powhiri for the Crown.
"It's important that the prime minister of the country has the ability to speak on the issues and respond to things raised on the marae. And I think if the invitation was extended in the normal way, as against the way it was this year, I'm sure he'll be very keen to come back."
Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell offered a prayer that Mr Key will return to Waitangi next year.
It was important for people to recognise each other's mana, because it was easy to make political capital out of their differences, he said.
Northland MP Winston Peters has said some Ngapuhi people had serious regrets over what happened with Mr Key and his non-appearance at Waitangi.
Some locals had told him the situation had been embarrassing and the vast majority of people in Northland wanted the prime minister to come to the marae.
Mr Peters said the iwi needed to get its act together.