There is support for Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira as preparations begin at Waitangi for the 171st commemoration of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The embattled Maori Party MP is facing a disciplinary hearing over comments made in a newspaper article criticising his party's relationship with the National Government. Party whip Te Ururoa Flavell laid the complaint against Mr Harawira.[image:1165:half:right]
At least 35,000 people are expected to attend the celebrations at the weekend, culminating in Waitangi Day on Sunday.
There has been no sign of Mr Harawira or any politicians yet at Waitangi. They are set to arrive on Saturday, led by Prime Minister John Key.
Some Maori already at Waitangi say the Maori Party cannot represent its people effectively if a split within the caucus is not resolved.
Greg Harris says the party needs to rebuild its connection, while Tamati Roha says the concerns of the people will not be addressed if the party can not put an end to the dispute.
Other Maori say in-house fighting is a waste of time, as there are more important things to be resolved, such as land matters.
Strong Navy and police presence
Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias and the Chief of the Navy, Rear Admiral Tony Parr, were welcomed onto Te Tii Marae on Friday morning, signfiying the start of the commemorations.
The Navy is present in significant numbers, with three vessels due to anchor off Waitangi at the weekend.
HMNZS Te Kaha is already in the bay and patrol vessels Hawea and Otago will join it on Sunday.[image:1163:half:right]
Lieutenant Commander Simon Rooke says it is part of the Navy's contribution, but it is also an honour to attend.
There is already a strong police presence at Waitangi. Inspector Chris Scahill will not be drawn on the exact numbers, but says police are investing a significant resource of officers from the disrict and further afield.
On the subject of protests, Mr Scahill says there has been no significant conflict in the past two years.
"Will there be protests? Yeah, there will - and that's fine, because lawful protest is as much a part of Waitangi as anything else and we accept and encourage that.
"But obviously, there will be a police presence there so that if there are any unlawful acts we're in a position to deal with that and ensure that everybody's able to have a really enjoyable Waitangi Day."
A large waka was out on the bay on Friday as its warriors practised for Sunday's mass waka salute, a highlight of every Waitangi Day.
Waitangi National Trust chief executive Jeanette Richardson says there is growing interest from New Zealanders in the country's birthplace.
"I think there's a real thirst for both information and for just being part of an event that is so much about our nation."
Organiser hopes for peaceful event
Waitangi festival organiser Pita Paraone expects this year's commemorations to be peaceful and entertaining.
Mr Paraone says a sunset ceremony may include hundreds of waka paddlers in waters off Waitangi.
Other entertainers will include Dame Malvina Major, Ray Woolf and a team of budding opera singers.