Key scorns Waitangi marae scuffle

Last updated 14:31 04/02/2014

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Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae and Nga Puhi elders deny allegations by Prime Minister John Key that the governor-general was "effectively" jostled by a "couple of radicals" acting disgracefully at Waitangi.

Key wasn't at the Te Tii Marae, but condemned an alleged incident in strong language.

"He [Mateparae] is the Queen's representative here in New Zealand, he's our head of state, and he deserves to be treated with respect when he goes actually to Waitangi to effectively be the Crown's representative as part of the signing of the Treaty," Key said.

But the governor-general tweeted: ViaGG My being jostled at Waitangi is news to me. I'm enjoying the scenery, the people and the day so far! Visiting HMNZS Wellington tonight

- Governor-General NZ (@GovGeneralNZ) February 4, 2014

"If anyone saw it was a disgrace he was at the wrong hui," Nga Puhi leader Rihari Takuira said.

"He [Mateparae] was given the honour of a full ceremonial welcome. That is the biggest honour you can get," Takuira said.

Others questioned how the prime minister could comment on an event he hadn't seen.

"It doesn't matter what Key says, he wasn't here. Nothing happened," said Tai Harawira, brother of Mana Party leader and MP Hone Harawira.

Key had said the incident at the lower marae would not make him to change his plans to attend celebrations tomorrow, but condemned the supposed incident this morning.

Titewhai Harawira's daughter, Hinewhare, and a fellow protester had allegedly "jostled" Mateparae as he entered Te Tii.

"Having a couple of protesters or radicals effectively jostling the governor-general is undignified, it's unwarranted and outright wrong," Key said.

Takuira said despite some vocal protesting, the governor-general, who was protected by the oars of a waka crew, was at no point physically threatened.

"It was noisy, [but] this marae and its people totally oppose any physical activity or jostling of the manuhiri [visitor to the marae].

"But if anyone can tell me a methodology to stop people yelling, send them to me," he said.

Protests would always occur at Waitangi as people took their opportunity to be heard by the Government and its representatives, Takuira said.

"I think anyone who represents the Government or the Crown would expect some sort of challenge," he said.

"Individuals will be individuals. The all have their own mana, and they believe they have their right to speak their point of view."

Hone Harawira said he had not been told of the alleged incident until much later and did not wish to comment before he found out what had happened.

"I'll judge everything by what I find out by myself rather than what I hear from others," he said.

"I'll be talking to my mum or sister, my brother, some of the kaumatua and kuia to find out what happened and how we manage those sorts of situations."

Key said most people enjoyed Waitangi Day, but "one or two" used the media platform to push their own agendas.

"Most people go to Waitangi to have a great time but, regrettably, there are one or two people who go there to cause trouble and use the media as a way of advancing their own cause or their own issues," he said.

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"I think that's a great shame because actually, for the vast bulk of New Zealanders they want to enjoy Waitangi Day and celebrate the great country New Zealand is."

Key is due to be welcomed onto Te Tii Marae tomorrow morning, and said he was braced for trouble.

He would not comment on details of his security contingent, but said today's alleged incident had not put him off attending.

"In terms of why do I go there? I made the commitment when I was leader of the Opposition I was going to go, and I've always said I'm not going to have my position swayed by a couple of radicals," he said.

Key said yesterday he was expecting confrontation and was aware of two separate protests timed to coincide with his arrival.

Several confrontations between Maori and political leaders have occurred at Waitangi. They include former National leader Don Brash being pelted with mud in 2004 and Titewhai Harawira making former Labour prime minister Helen Clark cry when she wouldn't let her speak on the marae in 1998.

- The Dominion Post

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