5 Feb 2011

PM brushes off abuse at Waitangi

10:07 pm on 5 February 2011

The Prime Minister is brushing off abuse hurled at him as he arrived at Te Tii Marae at Waitangi on Saturday morning.

Under heavy security, Mr Key and other dignitaries were welcomed on to the marae without incident until he neared the meeting house and a small group of people, one with a loud-hailer, started heckling him.


One of the hecklers was a man convicted of assaulting Mr Key at Waitangi two years ago.

This time, Wikatana Popata used a loud-hailer to claim that 'Aotearoa' was Maori land and that Mr Key was the 'enemy of the people'.

Mr Popata's uncle, Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira, says he is proud of the protest staged on Saturday by his nephews.

Mr Harawira says " ... they raised the issues that needed to be raised in the way that only young people can, fearless."

A cordon of waka warriors, Maori wardens and police quietly pushed the group away as the official party made its way into the meeting house.

Mr Key was escorted on to the marae by kuia Titewhai Harawira and accompanied by Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples.

Mr Key says the tension at Waitangi is heightened this year, reflecting the tension between Hone Harawira and the Maori Party.

He says he hopes New Zealanders understand that that is one or two people expressing their views.

Mr Key says "I got a very respectful hearing, I'm not sure they agreed with me, but I actually got a very respectful hearing in the whare."

He says he was not offended by being called the enemy, as he has been called worse.

Dr Sharples was also heckled. There were shouts of 'kupapa' meaning traitor or turncoat, as he walked into the meeting-house.

But Dr Sharples shrugged off the abuse, saying his detractors obviously have not heard about the gains the party has made for Maori through its coalition with National.

He says the claim of betrayal came from supporters of Mr Harawira, but the accusation is silly and he is not hurt by it.

Labour pleased with reception

Labour Party leader Phil Goff says he was very pleased with the reception he and his MPs received at the lower Te Tii Marae at Waitangi on Saturday.

Mr Goff was led onto the marae in the afternoon, after Mr Key.

The Labour leader was also accompanied by Green Party MPs, who joined him to address Nga Puhi iwi members in the whare.

Mr Goff says his main message to iwi was that Labour recognises the growing gap between rich and poor.

He says "it was a very positive response to each of the Labour speakers."