Waitangi PM absence, media ban a 'shambles'

5:35 pm on 6 February 2017

Waitangi National Trust Board chair Pita Paraone has criticised Te Tii Marae trustees' dealings with the Prime Minister and the media, calling it a shambles.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett at the dawn service at Waitangi.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett represented the Crown at Waitangi in place of Bill English. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Mr English abandoned events at the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi today after getting a letter from the trustees saying he could not speak during the powhiri.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett represented the Crown instead.

Ms Bennett said it was a shame Mr English was not at Waitangi, but he could reconsider in the future.

But she said the rules put in place for his visit to Te Tii Marae were not acceptable to the National Party because he was told he would not be given the right to speak.

Pita Paraone

Pita Paraone Photo: NZFirst

Media were asked to pay thousands of dollars to film on the marae grounds, which they refused. Marae officials hung up tarpaulins so media could not film proceedings from the public road.

On Saturday, reporters were told to stay outside the marae walls. Police cars blocked off the road leading to the marae and asked media to move off the public road outside.

Representatives blocked television cameras from filming Governor-General Dame Patsy's welcome by hanging a tarpaulin over the only available gap in the hedge.

Yesterday, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters did not go onto the marae after a stand-off with an official while he spoke to media outside.

Mr Paraone said the trustees actions reflected badly not only on Te Tii Marae, but on the Waitangi Treaty grounds, which were separate entities.

He said the board was considering offering to welcome the Prime Minister on Te Whare Rūnanga, the marae on the upper treaty grounds, next year.

"To the wider community outside of Waitangi they see us as part of what I call a shambles, but in reality we are two seperate entities."

He blamed internal disagreements within the marae committee.

A tarpaulin erected to prevent media from filming proceedings on Te Tii Marae.

Te Tii Marae officials hung up tarpaulins so media could not film proceedings from the public road. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

None of the marae trustees would comment, but Te Tii Marae kaumatua Kingi Taurua said Māori had internal disagreements like any other whānau.

"When we have differences here it seems to be not right, but all wrong, but we all have differences.

Mr Taurua said it would be wrong to move the formal welcomes for government dignitaries away from the Te Tii Marae, but said they would continue to commemorate the treaty and ancestors like they do every year.

Te Tii Marae in Waitangi is where the Treaty of Waitangi was discussed and debated by rangatira of Ngāpuhi before it was signed further up the road on what is now known at the Waitangi treaty grounds.

Crowds gather at Hobsons Beach to see the waka crews' haka as Ngatokimatawhaorua returns.

Crowds gather at Hobson's Beach to see the waka crews' haka as Ngatokimatawhaorua returns. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Dawn Service

About 1000 of people attended the dawn service, during which political representatives and other leaders were invited to offer words of widsom and prayers.

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias prayed for the granting of wisdom to keep to the vision of those who signed the treaty in 1840.

She said when celebrating the birthday of the nation it was timely to remember those who are troubled and those who are marginalised in society.

Dame Sian asked those at the service to particularly pray for people in prison.

The Chief of the Navy, Rear Admiral John Martin, spoke of the honour, privilege and responsibility of the navy's part in this country's story.

Commissioner of Police Mike Bush said it was fitting today to restate the police's commitment to Māori and the treaty.

Justice Joe Williams from the High Court said Captain William Hobson was wrong 177-years ago to say New Zealand was one people.

"The treaty is right when it says we are one country."

Former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley, who the service heard was involved in initiating a dawn service on Waitangi Day, was also invited to speak.

She said the treaty was the basis for New Zealanders to find their way forward.

"We are grateful that those who signed the treaty were able to gift us this treaty which today forms the basis for us to find our way forward."

"We bring the threads of our culture and history and shape a future together."

Meanwhile, a hikoi protesting against the use of methampetamine or P in this country has reached its final destination, the treaty grounds at Waitangi.

The march left Cape Reinga earlier this week.

About 50 people took part in the hikoi but their numbers swelled as the march made its way from Te Tii Marae across the Waitangi bridge and then up to the treaty grounds.

- Additional reporting by Lois Williams and Andrew McRae

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