Prime Minister John Key's Waitangi Day u-turn a chance for a fresh start?

Chris Skelton/FAIRFAX NZ

Prime Minister John Key announces he will not be attending Waitangi.

OPINION: John Key launched National's third term in office with a plan to craft his legacy by changing the flag. Would a more lasting legacy be gifting us a national day free of acrimony that everyone can celebrate?

After a week of will-he won't-he politics, Key's decision to turn his back on Te Tii marae will probably come as a relief to Kiwis who have spent much of the last week rolling their eyes at the usual threats of protest and conflict that accompany our only national day each year.

The Prime Minister's description of the to-ing and fro-ing over whether he should be welcomed onto the marae as "mickey mouse" was as on the money as it was overdue. The row has exposed the same egos, tribal divisions and personality clashes that have marred Waitangi Day for years.

Prime Minister John Key vowed to return the Government to Waitangi but now he is turning his back on Northland.
CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ

Prime Minister John Key vowed to return the Government to Waitangi but now he is turning his back on Northland.

The sad part is that Waitangi Day is celebrated peacefully elsewhere around the country but always under the shadow of events playing out up north.

READ MORE: 
* PM ditches Waitangi
Division amongst Ngapuhi leaders is putting the brakes on John Key going to Waitangi
Waitangi Day at Watiti Marae connects Sammy J with his roots
Perfect Mike Hosking: Waitangi Day – so far from perfect
Is it time for John Key to turn his back on Waitangi?

 
A history of conflict at Waitangi - then National leader Don Brash is targeted by protesters in 2004.
FOTOPRESS

A history of conflict at Waitangi - then National leader Don Brash is targeted by protesters in 2004.

Helen Clark turned her back on Te Tii marae in 2000, hoping that the new millennium might be an opportunity for a fresh start on our only national day.

Key, like Clark's other political opponents, made capital out of that decision by promising to put Te Tii marae back on the national stage.

Te Tii's trustees should have seized that gift of a second chance but squandered it instead by allowing the day to be turned into a political football.

Then-PM Helen Clark is jostled as she leaves the lower Waitangi marae on Waitangi Day, 2004.
DAVID WHITE/FAIRFAX NZ

Then-PM Helen Clark is jostled as she leaves the lower Waitangi marae on Waitangi Day, 2004.

The presence of the prime minister has become a lightning rod for anti-Government protests; this year's - opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership deal - threatened to get particularly ugly. Key would have got a taste of that in Auckland on Thursday at the official signing of the TPP.

Ad Feedback

Key will take a hit from his opponents for the u-turn, given his political attack on Clark for turning her back on Te Tii marae. 

It's a reminder that inevitably in politics, what goes around comes around.

But there might be more political mileage for his opponents in backing Clark's view that Waitangi Day and Te Tii marae do not go hand in glove.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback