Waitangi lower marae officials have demanded media pay $500 for permission to enter the ground where Prime Minister John Key is currently visiting
The fee is being demanded by Te Tii Marae, which is across a river from the main Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
Te Tii marae media liaison officer Hama Apiata told Fairfax Media, publisher of Stuff.co.nz, and several other news organisations they would not be allowed onto the marae grounds if they did not pay a $500 fee this morning.
He said other media ''had come to the party and paid the fee''.
Fairfax understands television stations were emailed last week advising them to pay $1000 to reserve places at the marae for their cameras.
Maori TV and TVNZ are understood to each have paid a $1000 fee.
TV3 are understood to have rejected the fee demand but after negotiation paid a koha or gift of $500.
Prime TV were understood to still be negotiating this morning.
Other media organisations were asked for payments when they arrived this morning.
Fairfax Media was warned that if it entered the grounds without paying the fee its cameras would be confiscated by Maori wardens.
''At this stage there is no way you are going on there,'' said Mr Apiata.
After negotiation Fairfax gave a koha of $20 as part of marae protocol, but did not pay a fee.
The New Zealand Herald confirmed it had also paid a koha, not a fee.
It is understood other media paid similar amounts from $20 to $40.
TVNZ spokeswoman Andi Brotherston confirmed TVNZ had paid a requested $1000 fee to book an area to park its Live Eye truck and satellite gear.
The marae committee required this fee to secure the area because of space constraints. It was a regular fee charged by the marae and TVNZ had paid it in previous years.
''We have a need for a safe parking area which is ours and that we can work from,'' she said.
She said the fee had nothing to do with reporters gaining access to the marae and this was never discussed with the marae.
Media Freedom Committee secretary and NZPA chief executive Tim Pankhurst said from Wellington that thesituation was confusing.
''This (request for payment) has come out of left field. We are opposing it on principle and won't pay to go on the marae,'' he said.
Some media outlets remain outside the ground.
Earlier, Prime Minister John Key arrived at Te Tii marae without incident, and sat alongside veteran activist Titewhai Harawira.
She was sitting between Mr Key and Finance Minister Bill English.
Mr Key arrived at the marae amidst heavy security which included the Diplomatic Protection Squad.
In addition Mr Key, who was assaulted at the same event last year, was also protected by a chain of Maori wardens and dozens of waka crew, armed with their paddles.
As Mr Key arrived on the marae he was greeted in the traditional manner and with a 50 strong haka.
Mr Key will be shadowed by bolstered security at Waitangi today as organisers predict that sparks will fly over the new Maori flag.
Waitangi National Trust board chairman Pita Paraone said yesterday that the increased security would be wise.
''I don't think it's right that the prime minister of a country should have to face the sort of indignities he had to face last year at Waitangi.''
Officials confirmed yesterday that the tino rangatiratanga flag will fly at eight official locations on New Zealand's national day but not at the Waitangi Treaty grounds.
Some Maori and political leaders said the flag was too divisive and a new poll revealed a bare majority in support of it.
''I think it probably is looming as a possible flashpoint,'' Mr Paraone said.
''Not necessarily by the more mature members, but probably by the younger generation who have been responsible for much of the protest over recent years.''
The flag will fly at Premier House, Government House, Te Papa, the Wellington offices of the Defence Force, the Customs Service, Internal Affairs, the Transport Ministry and Auckland Harbour Bridge.
NZ Post is arranging for the flag to fly alongside the New Zealand one at its headquarters in Wellington next year.
The tino rangatiratanga flag was anointed as the official Maori flag by Prime Minister John Key in December.
Some Maori, particularly from the north, prefer the United Tribes ensign.
Mr Paraone said his board was divided over whether the flag should fly on the Treaty grounds, so decided to delay the decision.
However, it will fly on the lower Te Tii Marae, where politicians are gathering.
Sonny Tau, chairman of host iwi Ngapuhi, said he was not involved in any decisions over the flag, but said ''people will warm to it''.
A Te Karere DigiPoll published yesterday found 53 per cent of Maori felt that they should have their own flag and 41 per cent felt they should not.
Support for the tino rangatiratanga flag as the Maori flag was at 58 per cent, compared with 38 per cent against it.
Mr Key said flags were a very emotive issue and the choice of the tino rangatiratanga flag was ''always going to have a bit of controversy about it''.
He had not expected it to be flown on the Treaty grounds.
More security for Mr Key at Waitangi comes after he was assaulted last year by two young Maori activists.
Mr Paraone said bolstered security would be wise. ''I don't think it's right that the prime minister of a country should have to face the sort of indignities he had to face last year at Waitangi.''
Labour leader Phil Goff said some Ngapuhi elders were ''vehemently opposed'' to the tino rangatiratanga flag.
''It remains something that still creates divisions within Maoridom itself.''
He said consultation over the choice of flag had become embroiled in party politics.
About 50,000 people are expected at Waitangi this year, which will mark 170 years since the Treaty was signed.
- with JOHN HARTEVELT
- The Dominion Post
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