3 Feb 2016

Waitangi change a 'slap in the face' for Key - Harawira

6:48 pm on 3 February 2016

The protocol for Prime Minister John Key at Te Tii Marae this year is a slap in the face for him, Hone Harawira says.

Mr Key will be welcome to speak at Waitangi during the powhiri, which is a rite afforded to any male manuhiri [guest].

Mr Key is usually given an opportunity to deliver a political speech inside the wharenui, but Waitangi elder Rihari Dargaville said that would not be offered to him this year.

Any political speech would take place at the forum tent, away from the Te Tii Marae wharenui.

Mr Harawira, facilitator of the political forum venue, said Ngāpuhi was sending a clear signal to Mr Key.

"It's definitely a slap in the face for the prime minister and big ups to Ngāpuhi for sending a clear message that they don't accept that he can refuse to consult with Māori, refuse to negotiate with Māori, refuse to brief Māori, refuse to let any Māori even see the TPPA and think that he can just swan on to the marae at Waitangi and promote the TPPA.

"I think it's the best interests in of the whole of Ngāpuhi and Māoridom that the signal has been sent to the prime minister in this way."

This morning Mr Key confirmed to reporters he would attend and speak at Waitangi, but raised the prospect of protesters blocking his way on to the marae.

Prime Minister John Key speaking to reporters on 3 February.

John Key said this morning he would be going to Waitangi as planned. Photo: RNZ / Mei Heron

Mr Key said he received a formal invitation last night, including the rights to speak at the marae. He would not be speaking at the political forum tent, despite an invitation to do so.

"Last night my office had a phone call followed up by an email from the chairman of Māori trustees up at Te Tii Marae - Ngāti Kawa.

"It was a formal invitation inviting me to Waitangi offering me all of the same privileges and procedures that have been in the past so going on to the lower marae, powhiried on with full speaking rights."

Mr Dargaville has warned there may be large numbers of protesters opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

Mr Key said this morning he was not worried about his own safety, but did have some concerns for his staff and other ministers.

"The indications we have are very large numbers of protesters, so it's not physically impossible, in principle, that I could be blocked from getting on by those protesters.

"We will be doing everything we can to get there but if they physically block us then we won't be able to go."

Mr Key said his security staff would make a decision on the day.

John Key is escorted onto Te Tii Marae at Waitangi by Ngapuhi kuia Titewhai Harawira (R) and Ngati Whatua leader Naida Glavish.

Prime Minister John Key is escorted on to Te Tii Marae at Waitangi by Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Whātua leaders last year. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Political speech moved from marae building

Te Tii Marae trustees met last night to discuss security for Mr Key, after deciding he would be invited to Waitangi despite overwhelming opposition from iwi leaders at a hui.

The leaders had voted 38-14 in favour of stopping Mr Key attending the marae because of his handling of the TPP.

Mr Dargaville, marae kaumatua and hui convener, told Morning Report Mr Key would not be able to give a political speech on the wharenui itself, but he will be able to do so at the political forum tent nearby.

"The prime minister will be invited - and we did not say he could not speak, but the marae is really to bring our manuhiri (guests) in like all the rest and simply have him speak there," Mr Dargaville said.

"But he will not be able to give a political rendition or a speech in our marae because this year matters are more at angst than any other time.

"There will be many, many people in Waitangi and therefore it is strongly suggested that the prime minister would address the nation of Ngāpuhi and others in a political tent 150 metres away from the marae."

Mr Dargaville said this year it was considered that if the Mr Key spoke about the "enormous and wide" issues, and others were given the right of reply, it would take too much time.

He said former prime ministers Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley were the first two National prime ministers to express political issues in that forum.

Warning of large protests

Mr Dargaville said there would be more protesters this year than ever before - with a group of 15,000 people opposing the signing of the TPP expected from Auckland.

"That would be the biggest we've seen. I don't know where we are going to fit them."

He said people were looking for an opportunity to express their anger about the trade deal.

The marae had a responsibility to ensure the safety of the prime minister, Mr Dargaville said.

Tensions at Waitangi are not uncommon: in the past, Mr Key has been assaulted, shouted down and harangued by big crowds of protesters.

Waitangi Protesters

Protesters gather at Waitangi on 5 February 2015. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Former Māori Affairs Minister and Ngāpuhi elder Dover Samuels said it was disappointing the vote on whether Mr Key should be invited to Waitangi wasn't binding but the marae trustees had made the right decision to let him come.

He believed the people of Ngāpuhi wanted to engage with Mr Key.

"I'd like to congratulate the trustees for seeing a bit of common sense in an invitation to our prime minister to address the issues."

The people at the hui were very emotional about the issue, Mr Samuels said.

Mr Key should come to Waitangi with his head held high to explain to Ngāpuhi where the government stood with regards to the TPP, he said.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs