Tempers simmer ahead of Waitangi Day

JOHN HARTEVELT AND IAN STEWARD
Last updated 17:15 05/02/2011
CLARE McINTOSH/Stuff.co.nz

Waitangi Day celebrations got off to a fiery start when Prime Minister John Key was met with protests labelling him "the enemy" as he arrived at Te Tii Marae.

Wikatana Popata (with loud hailer) and his small group of supporters are pushed back by Maori wardens and officials as Popata challenges John Key and his Government as they arrived for the Wataingi Day celebrations.
PETER MEECHAM
OUTSPOKEN: Wikatana Popata (with loud hailer) and his small group of supporters are pushed back by Maori wardens and officials as Popata challenges John Key and his Government as they arrived for the Wataingi Day celebrations.
He is the one responsible for killing and murdering a lot of our people. He is the one responsible for stealing our foreshore.
PETER MEECHAM
WIKATANA POPATA: "He is the one responsible for killing and murdering a lot of our people. He is the one responsible for stealing our foreshore."

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The temperature soared and tempers simmered at Waitangi Day celebrations in the Far North today.

Celebrations got off to a fiery start when Prime Minister John Key was met with protests labelling him "the enemy" as he arrived at Te Tii Marae this morning.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, who is embroiled in an internal party dispute with Hone Harawira, also copped flak from some hecklers who labelled him a traitor who was "kissing John Key's ass".

Key admitted this afternoon that the tension at Waitangi had been "heightened this year".

"I've come to learn that there will always be a range of views up here," Key said.

"But this time I think there was a bit more tension. I think that reflects the tension between Hone Harawira and the Maori Party.

"I got a very respectful hearing - I'm not sure they agreed with me - but they were certainly respectful in the whare."

Harawira's future in the Maori Party, which should be decided next week, was an inevitable topic of conservation at Waitangi.

Sharples said he found it difficult to talk about the situation "because I'm quite close with Hone".

"And yet we are unable to have a working relationship within the caucus rules at this time. I'm hoping we can work through that,"
Sharples said.

"If there's no way that we can work as a caucus and agree on things … then it would be very difficult to be working together."

Harawira himself seemed in a more optimistic mood about sticking with the Maori Party. He said he was glad to see Pita Sharples at Te Tii leading the Maori Party.

"I sincerely hope we can work this out and move forward," Harawira said.

He said kaumatua were laying down a resolution process that would take place "over the next couple of days"

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