The organisers of Waitangi Day commemorations and Te Tii Marae trustees are at odds over where next year’s official welcome will take place.
Traditionally Te Tii has hosted and welcomed political parties, dignitaries and iwi on the lower marae on February 5 – the day set aside for political talks.
A hui was held on Friday where Waitangi Day Organising Committee chair and NZ First MP Pita Paraone, with the backing of former Labour MP Shane Jones and Maori activist Titewhai Harawira, called for everything to be moved to the upper marae at the Treaty grounds.
CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ
It comes on the back of increasing controversy at Te Tii and political leaders boycotting the marae.
* Marae officials block view into lower marae
* Winston Peters threatened with arrest at Waitangi
* Stoush brewing over John Key attending Waitangi
* PM John Key won’t attend Waitangi celebrations
But Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua says Paraone has no power to take the welcome and political talks away from Te Tii.
JASON DORDAY/FAIRFAX NZ
He has called on marae trustees to consult more widely with other Ngapuhi hapu before making a decision.
“The only opportunity we get to raise political issues is here,” he said.
“Why would you want to shift it upstairs? It’s only because they feel the Government gets a hard time down here.”
Following the hui Taurua said it was decided a meeting of all Ngapuhi would be held on July 1 to discuss whether Te Tii would keep their hosting rights.
But Paraone says that’s not the case and he made it clear the official welcome would happen at the Treaty grounds and the hui next month was to decide whether Te Tii would be represented at the welcome or not.
Jones said the trustees of Te Tii would play no “leadership role” in the welcome next year.
“The people that are hostile to this development are the same crowd who have created the wreckage for so long,” he said.
In January newly-appointed Prime Minister Bill English made a decision to skip events at Waitangi on February 5 and 6 – the two days political leaders traditionally attend – and instead spend it in Auckland.
It came after former Prime Minister John Key didn’t attend last year for the first time after being refused speaking rights amid threats of protest.
English said in February that organisers of Waitangi Day commemorations needed to “get to grips” with hosting an event that Kiwis and the Government will support.
He also raised the idea of taking Waitangi Day on the road and a different marae hosting official ceremonies each year.
Te Tii Marae representatives went to extreme efforts to block views into the marae grounds at official commemorations in February.
They tried to sell exclusive broadcast rights to media for $10,000 in order for them to cover commemorations but news organisations refused to pay the fees.
NZ First leader Winston Peters took a stand and refused to go on the marae out of protest at the way Te Tii had handled events leading up to Waitangi, including the media ban.
While talking to media about his decision to snub the marae he was threatened with arrest by Te Tii officials. It was the first time in six decades Peters hadn’t gone onto the marae.
Taurua said on Friday that he didn’t agree with the way some things had been handled at the marae in recent years and if the trustees wanted “to take it away then take it” but he wanted a wider conversation with Ngapuhi before that happened.
“I’ve had so many phone calls in the last couple of days saying, ‘Kingi, don’t you let them make a decision without talking to us first’,” he said.
The feeling amongst trustees at the meeting was that they wanted political talks and official welcomes to stay at Te Tii, Taurua said.
“It’s eight months before we have to make a decision and I want Pita Paraone to understand the decision doesn’t belong to him.”