Maybe it was because this was one of the quietest years at Waitangi in recent memory that mainstream media was focused almost completely on internal disputes of who would or wouldn’t be escorting Prime Minister John Key on to Te Tii Marae at Waitangi. All we know is that it kept talk back running hot and no doubt increased newspaper sales.
It seemed to start when Te Tii Marae Board of Trustees released a statement suggesting that the board had decided that someone else would escort the PM onto the marae with Ngapuhi kaumatua Kingi Taurua saying:
They have decided. They have made that decision and that decision is final as far as I know.”
However, after Whaea Titewhai escorted the Governer General onto the marae yesterday, another media statement was released saying the decision had been reversed.
What we saw today, was calm and showed little conflict (but those types of headlines don’t sell advertising), despite reports of pushing and shoving, there were a few shouts of “HOHA” with explicit focus on MPs Hekia Parata and Paula Bennett.
What we can conclude is that it is not the boards or the governance groups that make decisions on our marae, it is the whanau and the hapu who ultimately have the final say. Each marae is different in terms of who makes decisions and you can rest assured that if Whaea Titiwhai did not have the both the mana and the backing of her people there would have been no doubt a very different outcome.
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples told Radio New Zealand that Mrs Harawira should be the person who escorts the prime minister onto the marae at Waitangi, saying having her in that role has been one of the most consistent things about the powhiri at Waitangi over recent years.
While Auckland University of Technology professor of indigenous studies, Rawiri Taonui, says Mrs Harawira has served the Waitangi marae for 40 years and deserves to lead dignitaries onto the ground. Dr Taonui says there is a history of bad blood between Mrs Harawira and the Ngapuhi board of trustees.
Click below to view an unedited video of the PM’s arrival.