Titewhai Harawira determined to remain Waitangi escort
Sunday 3 Feb 2013 6:40 p.m.
It's not unusual for there to be a bit of conflict at Waitangi Day celebrations, but things have started early this year, with a stoush over who will escort the Prime Minister onto the grounds.
Titewhai Harawira's appointed herself to the role for years. But Ngapuhi elders say it's time for a change.
John Key was welcomed onto a new ferry terminal in west Auckland today, and he can only hope that his welcome onto the lower marae in Waitangi on Tuesday will run just as smoothly.
A spat between elders is brewing in the far north over who should escort him onto the marae as Ngapuhi trustees move to sideline self-appointed escort Ms Harawira.
“They have decided that one of the kuia other than Titewhai Harawira will do that,” says Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua. “They have decided. They have made that decision and that decision is final as far as I know.”
Ms Harawira, who is the mother of Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, is also a long-time activist.
In 1998, she reduced Prime Minister Helen Clark to tears after refusing to let her speak in the marae.
Mr Taurua says trustees have this year appointed elder Ani Taurua, but she has expressed concerns about angering Ms Harawira.
“I think she's a bully,” says Mr Taurua. “She’s a bully for thinking her way is the right way and she’s not going to give in to anybody.”
And she appeared to do just that when she spoke to Maori TV's Te Kaea.
“I'm not interested in what Kingi has to say,” she says. “I'm not going to lower my mana to comment on what Kingi has to say.”
It's also possible that both women will escort the Prime Minister. Mr Key say's he'd rather not get involved.
“In the end it’s up them,” he says. “I don’t try and engage myself in Maori politics and protocol. I have enough issues to worry about myself. Whoever they decide will be alright with me.”
But Mr Key says he wouldn't be surprised if there is a stoush come Tuesday – drama at Waitangi is something he's had to get used to.