Waitangi should welcome Crown - festival organiser

8:25 pm on 25 January 2016

The Crown should be welcome at Waitangi despite Māori concerns about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, the long-serving organiser of the annual Waitangi Festival, Pita Paraone, says.

Te Tii Marae

Te Tii Marae Photo: RNZ

Waitangi Marae elder Kingi Taurua has said if the government signs the controversial trade deal next week, the marae should close its gates to Prime Minister John Key.

Mr Paraone said he could appreciate Mr Taurua's frustration, because by the time the Prime Minister goes to the marae on 5 February, the TPP will be a done deal.

"I can appreciate the frustration that Kingi has expressed, but if you say that the Crown is not welcome and they don't come, then you lose that opportunity of expressing your view face to face with those who hold the power within government."

The agreement will be signed in Auckland on 4 February, after which the 12 signatories will have two years to ratify it before it comes in force.

Mr Paraone said Ratana leaders had just shown it was possible to hold a dignified pōwhiri for the Crown while still making a strong protest against the TPP, and Waitangi elders should follow suit.

Ratana church elders and Maori leaders have complained about the secrecy of the trade deal and want its signing to be delayed.

Ratana church elders and Maori leaders have complained about the secrecy of the trade deal and want its signing to be delayed. Photo: RNZ / Leigh McLachlan

Mr Paraone, who is also a New Zealand First MP, said fiery outbursts from local elders always attracted attention but they gave the annual festival a bad rap.

Mr Paraone said people tend to confuse the political shenanigans at the marae on 5 February with Waitangi Day itself, which had for many years now been a peaceful day of ceremony and entertainment .

He said Mr Taurua's comments were also unhelpful when it came to securing funding for the Waitangi Festival.

The organising committee generally received about $80,000 from the government to run the official programme, but he believed the Crown might be more generous if the marae did not repeatedly make unfriendly noises in the lead up to Waitangi Day.

Athough the marae got a small amount of that funding to cover the costs of entertaining official guests, including the Governor-General, the Navy and the Crown, it also relied heavily on volunteers to provide food and service the needs of the manuhiri from 4-6 February.

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