24 Jan 2018

Wide support for Waitangi changes - Pita Paraone

9:07 am on 24 January 2018

Elders from Tai Tokerau are backing the protocol for this year's Waitangi welcome to the Crown, organiser Pita Paraone says.

Te Tii Marae, Waitangi. 2017.

Te Tii Marae at Waitangi. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The formal pōwhiri has until now been held at Te Tii Waitangi marae, but this year it will be held outside the whare rūnanga: the carved meeting house on the Treaty Grounds, after organisers lost patience with the annual scenes of chaos at the marae.

Pita Paraone

Pita Paraone Photo: NZFirst

Mr Paraone said he assumed some of the people at Te Tii would feel slighted by the decision to bypass their marae after so many years.

"But I want to say that this decision to have the formal pōwhiri take place up on the treaty grounds has support from a wide spread of the Northland tribes."

Mr Paraone said elders had agreed after much debate that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and other government speakers should address the crowd from the verandah of the whare rūnanga.

He said there would be no repeats of the incident 20 years ago where Titewhai Harawira prevented Helen Clark from speaking inside the whare at Te Tii.

"That has been discussed and debated by the organising committee, and we don't envisage any untoward actions in that regard," he said.

Mrs Harawira would escort Ms Ardern onto the treaty grounds, Mr Paraone said, along with the acting chair of the Waitangi National Trust Dennis McBrearty.

Mr Paraone was previously the trust chair but lost that job when he lost his parliamentary seat in the September election, because the seat he occupied on the trust board is reserved for an opposition MP.

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