Question marks remain over Key's Waitangi visit
By Sarah Robson
A question mark remains over whether Prime Minister John Key will be heading to Waitangi this year, although veteran activist Titewhai Harawira has extended an invitation to him to attend events at Te Tii Marae.
Following an all-day hui of Northland iwi leaders on Tuesday, marae trustees and kaumatua have decided Mr Key should be allowed on to Waitangi's lower marae on February 5.
Their decision overruled a majority vote taken at the hui to block the Prime Minister from attending.
Mrs Harawira, who has for many years escorted Mr Key on to Te Tii Marae, has subsequently contacted Mr Key's office with the invitation.
Mr Key says while it's his "strong preference" to go to events at Waitangi - which also include an iwi leaders' forum meeting and a dawn service on Waitangi Day itself - he won't go at all if he's not welcome or not permitted to speak on the lower marae.
"I have no intention of gatecrashing events at Waitangi," he told reporters.
"If that is the case, I would celebrate New Zealand's national day in another part of the country."
Suggestions Mr Key wouldn't be permitted to speak even if he was invited on to the marae were incorrect, Te Kotahitanga o Nga Hapu Ngapuhi co-chairman Rudy Taylor told NZ Newswire.
"There's no way we are going to stop people talking," he said.
However, Mr Taylor wants Mr Key to set aside some time to speak with those on the marae about the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.
"It's important that the Prime Minister comes on, it's important that he has his mihi back to the people of Waitangi."
Some iwi leaders, including Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua, have threatened to stop Mr Key and other Government ministers from attending events at Waitangi because the TPP is being signed in Auckland on February 4.
If he does go to Waitangi, it's expected Mr Key will be greeted with protesters at Te Tii Marae - the scene of protests and mud-slinging in the past.