Shane Jones throws weight behind shifting Government welcome to Waitangi away from Ti Tii marae
Former Labour MP Shane Jones has thrown his weight behind calls to shift Waitangi celebrations involving the Crown, away from Ti Tii Marae.
The national day and lead-up was marred by in-fighting among trustees of the lower marae. Drawn-out confusion over whether Prime Minister John Key was even invited, and a gagging order placed on him by some trustees led to his withdrawal from Waitangi celebrations at the weekend.
He promised to return next year, if his normal speaking rights were reinstated.
But Waitangi Festival organiser and NZ First MP Pita Paraone has suggested a solution might be the future powhiri of the Crown to the treaty grounds, be shifted to the upper marae.
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Northland-based Jones, now New Zealand's economic development ambassador to the Pacific, said he supported the calls.
"Unfortunately all Tai Tokerau (Northland) tribes are tainted by the Te Tii Marae circus. Their decision that the PM could go on the Marae but not talk makes a mockery of Marae culture.
"What were they thinking, that the leader of the nation would stand and hum Pokarekare ana?" said Jones.
He said the confusion reflected badly on all Northland iwi.
"Historically speaking the actual Te Tii Marae was opened in 1880. The sentiment of the time was a Marae for the unity of Maori and Pakeha. Not much evidence of any unity [now].
He said a vote over whether trustees would extend an invitation to the Prime Minister this year was "farcical".
"Such hui and decisions showed that Marae cannot cope and an alternative venue should be used to prevent Waitangi looking like wairangi (delusional)."
Paraone, who is Waitangi National Trust chairman, confirmed he had heard a number of calls to shift the occasion away from Ti Tii.
"I was approached by a number of people, who obviously view the marae on the treaty grounds as an option.
"my response was that's fine, but I think there needs to be some discussion before we start making a decision like that in concrete," Paraone said.
After the confusion which reigned over this year's celebrations, Paraone said it might be a reasonable suggestion. It would need to be looked at by a small group, against all of the options, before being put to a wider hui.
"I think the fact that the absence of the Prime Minister, notwithstanding the rights and wrongs of decisions that were made from both sides, I think that clouded the more positive aspects of the day."
That included the opening of a new $12.5m Waitangi Museum, which opens its doors to the public today.
"I've always been of the view that the Prime Minister of our country, whichever Government it is... should always be in attendance at Waitangi. But I think the comments coming out of the marae didn't help the caus.
"And if you take into consideration the other politicals parties who came on to the marae, were able to express their views on particular political issues, quite clearly you can understand the decision made by the PM," Paraone said.
Waitangi was the centre of heavy protests this year, mostly directed toward the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce was among senior Government representatives to still attend commemorations but was left stunned by a flying dildo, thrown at him in protest during a media standup.
The image was beamed around the world.