6 Feb 2012

PM hopes Waitangi welcome won't be scrapped

12:05 pm on 6 February 2012

Prime Minister John Key says it would be disappointing if a decision was made not to welcome politicians onto Waitangi Marae in the future.

The new chair of the marae, Rihari Dargaville, is threatening to end the traditional weekend welcomes for politicians at Waitangi unless protesters can learn to behave.


On Sunday, Mr Key was welcomed onto the marae along with Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples and other Government MPs ahead of official Waitangi Day celebrations in the Bay of Islands on Monday.

However, the visit was cut short after protesters began shouting, drowning out Mr Key's speech. Abuse was also directed at Dr Sharples and National Party minister Hekia Parata.

John Key says it would be his preference to keep visiting the marae on the day before Waitangi Day in future to give the Government's account of events and to engage in debate.

"The whole issue with the Treaty is that it has an ongoing place in our society and it's important for both the Crown and Maori to have an opportunity to debate those issues."

Mana Party leader and local MP Hone Harawira says he has offered to sit down with Rihari Dargaville and discuss the matter.

"I just think it was highly premature of him to come out with a statement like that. They made those sort of statements in the past when I was a young man.

"It doesn't change the fact that Waitangi Day is Waitangi Day. It doesn't change the fact the Treaty was signed here. It doesn't change the fact there will be powhiri on the marae."

John Key used his Waitangi Day speech to reassure Maori that Treaty obligations will be included in new legislation paving the way for the partial sale of assets.

Iwi leaders and the Maori Party have raised concerns that Treaty obligations will be weakened or left out of the revised State-Owned Enterprises Act.

Mr Key reassured iwi that new legislation set up to facilitate the sale will include a Treaty clause. He says it could be a general clause, but the Government favours a specific one so that it is clear the clause applies only to the majority Crown shareholding.

Sharples 'disappointed' by abuse

Pita Sharples says he was disappointed at being the target of some abuse on Sunday as he is fighting for the same things protesters are.

The Maori Party co-leader says he has even put his job on the line over the inclusion of Treaty of Waitangi provisions in new legislation underpinning the partial sale of four state-owned assets.


Each year, New Zealand marks its national day and the signing of the Treaty at the township of Waitangi on 6 February in 1840. The marae and Treaty grounds have been the site of major protests in previous years.

Dr Sharples says until the Treaty is honoured, protests are likely to continue at the celebrations.

A prominent protester says ending Waitangi Day welcomes for politicians at the marae will not work to quiet dissent.

Wikitana Popata, who was convicted of assaulting John Key during a scuffle in 2009, was also among those who abused him on Sunday.

The 22-year-old says his generation has had enough and doesn't want to talk to "the enemy".

Mr Popata says it will be a really sad day if the welcome for politicians is ended, but protesters will simply find another way or place to have their voices heard.