Key to attend Te Tii after all

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THIS WAY OUT: Maori wardens line the exit from Te Tii Marae before the departure of the Prime Minister on February 5 last year. PICTURE/NZ HERALD
THIS WAY OUT: Maori wardens line the exit from Te Tii Marae before the departure of the Prime Minister on February 5 last year. PICTURE/NZ HERALD

Much to-ing and fro-ing seemed to come to an end late yesterday morning, with Prime Minister John Key announcing that he would be at Te Tii Marae tomorrow, where he would have the traditional speaking rights.

He was still not over-confident however, with indications that there would be a large number of protesters potentially meaning that he could be physically blocked from entering the lower marae.

Mr Key's attendance was uncertain earlier in the week, given conflicting responses from a hui of marae organisers and Ngapuhi leaders.

He said on Tuesday that he would not be at Waitangi at all if he was not invited to the marae or was told he could not speak, despite other commitments such as Saturday's dawn service, meetings with iwi leaders and hosting his annual Waitangi breakfast.

Marae elder Kingi Taurua said the majority had voted against Mr Key attending, which meant he would not be invited, but marae trustee Emma Gibbs said the trustees were inviting him despite that vote.

However, Mr Key would not be given speaking rights beyond a response to the powhiri.

Mr Key said the main aim of visiting Waitangi was to honour the Treaty, but he went to the lower marae to discuss the issues of the day.

"I'm not going if I can't speak. It's pretty simple," he added on Tuesday.

"That would mean I'd go on and completely ignore what [protesters] were saying, or not rebut the obvious things they are getting wrong and misleading everyone."

Kaumatua Kingi Taurua said after Tuesday's vote (38-14 against inviting the Prime Minister) that he would never get on to the marae if he ignored the decision. The hui was called after Mr Taurua raised the idea (which he said was not his) of banning Mr Key in protest against today's signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"There's confusion here. It's political, it's all political. I believe [Mr Key] will never get on to the marae. If he wants to take the risk he can," he said.

Te Kotahitanga o Nga Hapu Ngapuhi co-chairman Rudy Taylor said in the end the trustees had decided it would be best for Mr Key to come on to the marae, which would give Maori the chance to express how they felt about the TPP, while former Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels said he had urged the hui not to ban Mr Key.

That would be a missed opportunity for Maori to put their concerns to the Prime Minister "kanohi ki kanohi, eyeball to eyeball".

The response of marae trustees was that protocols and the number of people needing to be welcomed tomorrow meant there would be no time for meaningful engagement with the Prime Minister.

Mr Samuels suggested setting aside time for a discussion with Mr Key in one of the marquees on the marae grounds, away from the formalities of the powhiri. That was also rejected.

He believed the decision would have been very different had it been made by Ngapuhi-nui-tonu (wider Ngapuhi) rather than the marae trustees and hapu representatives.

- Northland Age

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