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Harawira calls end to Maori visits by politicians "premature"

Harawira calls end to Maori visits by politicians “premature”

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Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says a call to stop politicians visiting Te Tii Marae in Waitangi is premature.

Marae chair Rihari Dargaville has threatened to stop the annual tradition of politicians visiting the marae the day before Waitangi Day if protesters continue to disrupt political speeches.

The call comes after Prime Minister John Key had to cut his visit to the marae short yesterday after he was shouted down by protesters.

Mr Dargaville said he was unhappy with the protesters and police would be called on to keep them further away from politicians next year.

Mr Harawira, the MP for the Northland Maori electorate of Te Tai Tokerau, said stopping politicians from visiting the marae would be premature.

He has has offered to discuss the matter with Mr Dargaville.

“I just think it was highly premature of him to come out with a statement like that,” he told Radio New Zealand.

“I mean, they’ve made those sorts of statements in the past, when I was a young man.

“It doesn’t change the fact that Waitangi Day is Waitangi Day, it doesn’t change the fact that the Treaty was signed here, it doesn’t change the fact that there will be powhiri on the marae.”

Mr Key this morning said stopping visits to the marae would be disappointing because it was a good opportunity for the Government to front up to Maori.

“My preference would be to be able to come onto the lower marae the day before Waitangi Day and give the Government’s account of events and engage in debate.

“The whole issue with the Treaty is that it has an ongoing place in our society and it’s important for both the Crown and Maori to have an opportunity to debate those issues.

“We won’t always agree, but that is a forum where we can do that.”

He said it was unfortunate that the “silly actions” of a few protesters yesterday effectively hijacked his opportunity for the Government to give its response on issues of the day, and that was as disrespectful to the kaumatua of Te Tii Marae as it was to the Government.

Speaking after this morning’s dawn service, Mr Key said Waitangi Day itself was usually a peaceful family day and a way to reflect upon the fact that New Zealand was a country that came together by signing a Treaty on a peaceful day.

“That’s not to not remember the disputes and wars that came after that, but we were unusual in that we were a country that was formed in that way.”

He said New Zealand was now a multicultural society that was built on a bicultural foundation.

Mr Key also responded to the Maori Party’s encouragement of legal action to try to halt state asset sales by saying the Government would continue to consult over whether or not a Treaty clause should be included in legislation setting up the mixed ownership model, and what shape any clause should have.

“But we believe it’s in New Zealand’s best interests to take this path and we think the opportunities are greater as a result of it.”

He said the Maori Party were free to be part of the Opposition on the issue, as agreed in their confidence and supply agreement, but he believed it was the best course for New Zealand.

He said a Maori Council attempt to halt the asset sales, at least until water rights and a Treaty clause were worked out, was unlikely to affect the proposed timeframe. The Maori Council is expected to file two claims tomorrow on the issue.

Mr Key said the Government was not bound by the Waitangi Tribunal.

He said Finance Minister Bill English had met with Sir Graham Latimer – the chair of the Maori Council – yesterday.

“We are the Government and we will operate within the law, so if the courts slow us down, they will slow us down.”

He said consultation with Maori was genuine by the Government, despite scepticism from the Iwi Leaders’ group which had told Mr Key and Mr English that it was strongly opposed to suggestions section nine of the State Owned Enterprises Act might not apply under the mixed ownership model companies in the same way.

By Claire Trevett
Photo by Oryan Mclean

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