Sharples suggests moving welcome to upper marae

5:21 pm on 6 February 2013

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples is suggesting moving traditional celebrations at Waitangi to the upper marae on the Treaty grounds.

Dr Sharples says some Te Tii Marae elders have approached him, saying they are fed up with troubles that always plague political visits on the lower marae held the day before Waitangi Day on 5 February.

Pita Sharples says moving the official welcome could result in a more peaceful day.

Pita Sharples says moving the official welcome could result in a more peaceful day. Photo: MAORI PARTY

Wednesday marks 173 years since the first Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand's founding document.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister's welcome by Maori was delayed by 45 minutes after an argument erupted over who would escort him onto Te Tii Marae.

Dr Sharples says moving the traditional welcome to the upper marae could result in a more peaceful Waitangi Day and take the heat out of political visits.

The MP says it could deter those that cause the trouble from attending. However, he says local iwi leaders are not keen on that idea.

Prime Minister John Key says he is not convinced that moving Waitangi celebrations to the upper marae would change anything.

"What's causing the conflict isn't the location, it's that some choose to use that day and that location in the presence of the media to try and get their point across.

"We can change the location, but unless we change the attitude of some, then I don't think a lot will change."

Mr Key says it is sad that Waitangi Day is always marked by scuffles and conflict.

Family festivities dominated the rest of the day with people drawn to the live entertainment, food stalls and markets at three different venues.