4 Oct 2016

PM could get Waitangi greeting away from 'grandstanding'

5:50 am on 4 October 2016

Veteran Waitangi Day organiser Pita Paraone has given Waitangi marae three weeks to decide whether it will make the Prime Minister John Key welcome next year.

John Key Waitangi

Prime Minister John Key at Waitangi in 2015. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Mr Key stayed away from Waitangi this year, after marae elder Kingi Taurua said he was not wanted amid strong opposition to the signing of the TPP agreement.

Mr Paraone said the Crown should be at Waitangi on the national day for all sorts of reasons, not least because it was a chance to meet with iwi leaders.

He told marae elders at a meeting on Friday that if they did not want to make the Prime Minister welcome, it would be a simple matter to bypass the marae, and hold a powhiri on the Treaty Grounds.

Respected elders from around Tai Tokerau would be more than willing to do the honours, he said.

"As we used to do in the past, we would get representatives of the various iwi to extend the welcome to the visitors.

"Depending on the weather there's no reason we can't have it in front of the whare rūnanga (carved meeting house) or have it indoors. And there will be no opportunity for grandstanding."

Mr Paraone said guests, including the Prime Minister, should be able to expect a Ngāpuhi powhiri that respected the protocols upheld by former leaders such as Sir James Henare, and Simon Snowden, who would not tolerate political tirades or abuse during a welcome.

Politics and sore points were discussed afterwards - not aired during the formalities, he said.

But that had not been the case at Waitangi since the early 1990s when the marae, on Te Tii beach was effectively captured by the protest brigade, Mr Paraone said.

"Notwithstanding the merits of their arguments," he said. "I've never said their actions were right or wrong. Just that they are outside the protocols of the powhiri."

Mr Paraone, who chairs the Waitangi National Trust, has organised the official Waitangi Day programme on the Treaty Grounds for the past 25 years.

While events down at the Waitangi marae on Te Tii beach have been, at times, chaotic, the Waitangi festival itself, held on the Treaty Grounds and the Bledisloe estate has increased in popularity, with up to 40,000 people attending in recent years.

The Waitangi elders are expected to make a decision on the Crown powhiri on 28 October.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs