4 Feb 2013

Titewhai Harawira wins over escorting PM at Waitangi

10:41 pm on 4 February 2013

The Waitangi marae's board of trustees has reversed its decision to stop the activist and Ngapuhi elder, Titewhai Harawira, from escorting Prime Minister John Key on to the marae on Tuesday.

The board had nominated Ani Taurua to escort Mr Key, rather than Mrs Harawira.

The chair of the marae and Ani Taurua's brother-in-law, Kingi Taurua, says the board was concerned about Mrs Harawira's reaction if she was not allowed to escort the prime minister, as she does each year.

"There's no other bloody way, you know. We don't want any problem, we don't want any trouble and so Titewhai has won again because she is such a bully. That's what she is."

He says Mrs Harawira will escort the prime minister alone because Mrs Taurua has said she does not want to share the job with her.

There's been no reaction to the decision from Mrs Harawira.

Earlier, Mr Taurua said Mrs Harawira has had her turn and there are many other kuia who deserved a chance to escort the dignitaries on to the marae.

The Ngapuhi leader said Mrs Harawira now lived in Auckland and travelled to the marae only for Waitangi Day and important meetings.

Mr Taurua said she should come to the marae and get her hands dirty as other kuia did, then she might be given the honour again.

Also speaking earlier, Mrs Harawira said the reporting of the dispute over her role at Waitangi was rubbish.

She told Radio Waatea she didn't know what the drama was about.

She said she was attending a Maori Council meeting on Monday and on Tuesday would be involved in the launching of an anti-violence campaign.

Support for Harawira

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says Mrs Harawira should be the person who escorts the prime minister onto the marae at Waitangi.

Dr Sharples, who is also the Minister of Maori Affairs, says having her in that role has been one of the most consistent things about the powhiri at Waitangi over recent years.

Auckland University of Technology professor of indigenous studies, Rawiri Taonui, says Mrs Harawira has served the Waitangi marae for 40 years and deserves to lead dignitaries onto the ground.

Dr Taonui says there is a history of bad blood between Mrs Harawira and the Ngapuhi board of trustees.

Just theatre - Jones

Labour Party MP Shane Jones says disputes at Waitangi are just theatre and are nothing new.

Mr Jones thinks the prime minister will cope with the drama as earlier politicians have done, saying a meeting of the Maori Council at Waitangi on privatisation is a more important issue.