5 Feb 2018

Waitangi: Everyone 'singing from the same songsheet'

10:18 am on 5 February 2018

The Prime Minister is half-way through her extended stay in Waitangi and will this morning be formally welcomed at Te Whare Rūnanga Marae on the treaty grounds.

A misty Waitangi morning.

A misty Waitangi morning. Photo: RNZ / Colin Pearce

Jacinda Ardern's five-day visit is the longest any Prime Minister has made to Waitangi. She has said she wanted to ensure strong, open transparent relationships with Māori.

Follow RNZ's live coverage of the day's events

Watch her speak to RNZ's Mihingarangi Forbes at Waitangi this morning

Ms Ardern rejected suggestions from reporters she was on a charm offensive, saying she and her caucus felt the weight of expectation from te ao Māori.

"That when we were voted in and specifically when those MPs - through hard work - won those Māori seats, we took with us a lot of hope and expectation about practical things: creating jobs, decent housing, lifting families out of poverty. So, yes we feel that expectation."

Prime Minister and company are welcomed to Karetu Marae

The government being being welcomed onto Kāretu Marae in Waitangi late last week. Photo: RNZ/ Shannon Haunui-Thompson

Ms Ardern will speak from the porch of the whare rūnanga during the formal welcome this morning - a first for a female prime minister.

Ngāpuhi elder Pita Paraone said the kōrero at Governor-General Patsy Reddy's pōwhiri yesterday was cordial and humble, and he expected the same for Ms Ardern.

"Everyone was singing from the same songsheet and I think it's an indication of people having had enough of what's happened in recent years and so wanting to ensure this year - having the ceremonies return to the treaty grounds - that everything was on song."

The government at Waitangi this morning.

Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern with senior MPs. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

National Party leader Bill English will spend Waitangi Day at the other end of the country at Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff, attending Ngāi Tahu's treaty commemoration hui.

The National Party will be represented at this morning's pōwhiri with a delegation of 12 MPs, including senior MP Steven Joyce and Whangārei MP, Shane Reti.

Venue change to avoid 'shenanigans' - organiser

An organiser at Waitangi said the shenanigans of previous years had made iwi a laughing stock.

Pita Paraone

Pita Paraone Photo: NZFirst

MPs from all parties will be welcomed onto the upper marae, Te Whare Rūnanga, this morning, before party leaders take turns at meeting with iwi leaders to discuss Māori issues and plans for the year ahead.

This is the first time the upper marae has hosted the Waitangi political talks - Te Tii Marae has traditionally been home to the pōwhiri and debate but after years of controversy the venue has been changed.

Organiser Pita Paraone said the decision to move the festivities onto the treaty grounds was based on recent activities at Te Tii Marae.

"People of the north became the laughing stock amongst iwi from around the country.

"For people like myself, who travel around the country, we found that quite humiliating, to say the least. And so the decision was made to change the venue and hopefully do away with the amount of shenanigans that used to happen in recent years."

Mr Paraone said generally iwi and hapū supported the move and had responded positively to it.

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