17 Sep 2017

English unlikely to return to Waitangi for celebrations

5:14 pm on 17 September 2017

Bill English says he's unlikely to return to Waitangi for Waitangi Day if National is re-elected.

Prime Minister Bill English addresses reporters about his decision not to attend Waitangi Day celebrations.

Bill English speaking to reporters earlier this year about his decision not to attend Waitangi Day celebrations. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

In February, Mr English spent the day at Bastion Point in Orakei, rather than heading to Waitangi as is traditional for the prime minister.

He said at the time Waitangi had become a hotbed of division and political protest, which didn't reflect the progress made in the relationship between Māori and the Crown.

Mr English said if re-elected, he would probably stick to that view.

"It was my view that Waitangi Day did not represent the history or partnership between Māori and Pākehā in New Zealand, if I'm elected as prime minister it's unlikely we'd go back to Waitangi next year."

Mr English said rather than finding another permanent place to head to, he'd consider going to different commemorations each year.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said she had travelled north for nearly every Waitangi Day celebration and would continue to do so.

"My experiences at Waitangi have always been positive - robust exchanges, good discussion and dialogue - that's what Waitangi is all about."

But she wouldn't go so far as to criticise Mr English's decision.

"That's Bill English's prerogative. It's his decision. I just know that it would be important for me to attend."

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