Bill English's Waitangi Day no-show a 'smart move'

Bill English
Bill English is facing backlash for his decision to not attend Waitangi day.

Bill English's decision to not attend the often turbulent Waitangi Day ceremony is a "smart move", according to former politician and political commentator John Tamihere.

The newly appointed prime minister said he won't attend a powhiri at Te Tii Marae on February 5, or the dawn service on Waitangi Day on February 6, after he wasn't given speaking rights.

"The Marae leaders have decided that the Prime Minister of New Zealand can't speak on their Marae and that, as far as I'm concerned, is not respectful of the role," Mr English said.

In an interview with RadioLive, Mr Tamihere called it a "savvy political decision", as Mr English enters his first election as National Party leader.

"If you want to de-risk things, you don't give any nutters an opportunity to nut off in Waitangi, as they are prone to do," he says.

"If people want to continue to use [Waitangi Day] to push their own barrows and to get some press out of it, it does tire people."

Mr English's controversial no-show could actually deflect drama from an otherwise "idyllic" day, Mr Tamahere says.

"There's a time and a place for protest. But this Waitangi 'dial a protest' now - please. The prime minister not giving any attention to it will actually go down well."

Mr Tamahere says Mr English has worked hard to maintain a good relationship with Māori people, and won't threaten that with a political spectacle.

"What he'll be arguing is, if it's not broken, don't fix it."