21 Nov 2017

Tamati Coffey uninvited from awards gala after winning election

From Checkpoint, 5:27 pm on 21 November 2017

New MP for Waiariki Tamati Coffey was uninvited from a gala awards event because organisers didn't want to upset the ousted MP and Māori  Party leader, Te Ururoa Flavell.

Tamati Coffey, left, and Te Ururoa Flavell

Tamati Coffey, left, and Te Ururoa Flavell Photo: Supplied

The annual Te Arawa Awards in Rotorua "celebrate rangatahi, sporting and iwi achievement and success" according to the website of Te Papa Takaro o Te Arawa, the charity that organises the event.

Tamati Coffey was due to attend in his role as deputy chair of the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust. The trust is a major sponsor of the awards, giving $5000 each year.

But when Mr Coffey became Waiariki's new MP just six days out from the September 29 event, he was uninvited by Peri Marks, the chair of Te Papa Takaro o Te Arawa, who was worried about upsetting Te Ururoa Flavell, who was invited when he was the MP.

Mr Coffey signalled he may attend regardless, as the Trust had its own table at the sit-down gala, and Mr Marks then asked Mr Coffey's boss, Trust chair Stewart Edwards, to ask Mr Coffey not to attend.

"People were pretty geared up about [Tamati Coffey ousting Te Ururoa Flavell in Waiariki]," Mr Edwards told Checkpoint.

"People weren't sure what the reaction might be [if he went to the awards].

Checkpoint understands a group of attendees had threatened to make a scene at the awards if Mr Coffey attended.

"The people who were running the show were unsure they could manage the evening without potential embarrassment to all concerned," Mr Edwards said.

But the entire kerfuffle proved pointless - Mr Flavell didn't attend the awards, and he told Checkpoint he wouldn't have minded if Mr Coffey was there had he attended.

"Having been invited as the MP in the past and not being the MP I think I probably wasn't in the right space having just come out of the election and I think I did tender my apology," Mr Flavell said.

Mr Marks declined to be interviewed today.

"The conversation is between me and Tamati and not anybody else and that includes anyone who wants to talk about it".

He was unable to say whether Mr Coffey would be invited to next year's Te Arawa Awards.

Mr Edwards said the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust's sponsorship of the Te Arawa Awards would go up for review, but it was likely the sponsorship would continue, despite the snub.

"The principle of this is that it's purely and simply a way of recognising the young people of our area and that's of paramount importance," he said.