John Key open to moving Waitangi welcome

  • 09/02/2016
John Key (Newshub)
John Key (Newshub)

After Prime Minister John Key's no-show at Waitangi, there are renewed calls to shift the traditional welcome of political leaders to the upper marae on the Treaty Grounds.

"It might be a fair question to ask - 'can things be done better?' I think a lot of New Zealanders have a view on that," Mr Key told the Paul Henry programme this morning.

"At a minimum it could be moved to the upper marae."

Mr Key opted against making the pilgrimage to the Bay of Islands this year amid conflicting messages about whether or not he'd be able to speak on Te Tii Marae, Waitangi's lower marae, and concerns about security.

All politicians are welcomed on to Te Tii Marae on February 5, and in the past it's been the scene of protests, mud-slinging and tense face-offs.

Northland-based former Labour MP Shane Jones told Radio New Zealand the lower marae has turned into "some sort of fool's paradise".

"The people who are making these decisions have absolutely no mandate whatsoever from the rest of the north and unfortunately it paints the image for the entire north on this particular day."

He said the welcoming ceremony was being "held hostage" by the trustees of Te Tii Marae.

"This notion that you invite public officials, you invite parliamentarians, and they get up there but they're not allowed to talk, that's just cultural litter and the sooner someone clears that up, the better for the north," he said.

Mr Key said the political events on February 5 have their place. "There's never been a Waitangi that I can remember that hasn't had protest," he said.

"We go as part of the ongoing dialogue and engagement between Crown and Maori... I think you've got to say there's value in that."

As opposition leader in 2007, Mr Key promised he'd go to Waitangi every year.

Labour leader Andrew Little has pledged that, if he becomes Prime Minister, he will attend events at Waitangi every year, including those at Te Tii Marae.