4 Feb 2023

Waitangi: Political leaders appear to get go-ahead to speak at pōwhiri

6:16 pm on 4 February 2023
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins at Waitangi for the Iwi Chairs Forum.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins will follow the Waitangi National Trust's guidance on speaking Photo: RNZ / Ella Stewart

After a flurry of confusion at Waitangi, political leaders appear to have been given the go-ahead to speak at tomorrow's Parliamentary pōwhiri.

Labour's position has alternated over the past few days: first Prime Minister Chris Hipkins would speak, then he wouldn't, and then he would again.

The confusion was centred on the wishes of the organisers, the Waitangi National Trust.

In a letter sent to parties last month, the trust requested tomorrow's pōwhiri be mostly in te reo, with party leaders speaking at a separate panel instead.

Initially, on Friday, deputy leader Kelvin Davis told media Hipkins intended to speak.

"In a pōwhiri, people don't get to say who is speaking and direct the traffic. It's over to manuhiri [guests] to put up who they want to speak - that's tikanga the country over."

However, on Saturday morning, a spokesperson for the prime minister said Hipkins would respect the trust's wishes.

"It is their event and the prime minister accepts their rules and tikanga."

That changed again later in the day after the trust's chair Pita Tipene publicly clarified leaders were welcome to speak at the pōwhiri.

Ngātiwai Trust Board CEO Hūhana Lyndon (Ngātiwai, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Whātua, Te Waiariki, Ngāpuhi) has announced she will be running for the Te Tai Tokerau seat for the Green Party. Photos are taken outside of Te Tii Waitangi marae on 4 February, 2023.

The Green Party's Marama Davidson says her party will honour the tikanga of the pōwhiri process Photo: RNZ / Ella Stewart

A spokesperson for Hipkins said the prime minister would follow the trust's guidance.

"As we've always said, we're in the hands of the National Trust as it is their event. If they are okay with the prime minister speaking in the pōwhiri tomorrow, he happily will."

In a statement, the National Party said its leader Christopher Luxon had been assured he could speak tomorrow.

"Mr Tipene has confirmed it is totally appropriate," a spokesperson for Luxon said.

At a media conference on Saturday morning, Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said her party would take direction from the organisers.

"We will decide accordingly and put an appropriate speaker in place to honour the tikanga of the pōwhiri process," she said.

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