Key granted permission to speak at Waitangi

  • 03/02/2016
Prime Minister John Key
Prime Minister John Key

Prime Minister John Key has confirmed he will attend celebrations at Waitangi.

Mr Key said an invitation had come from the Marae's trustees, which will give him access and speaking rights on the lower marae.

However the large number of protesters predicted at Te Tii Marae could mean the Prime Minister won't make it.

"It's not physically impossible that in principle I could be blocked actually from getting on by those protesters," Mr Key said.

The prime minister said his security was assessing the situation.

After some initial confusion, Te Kotahitanga co-chairman Rudy Taylor has confirmed Mr Key will be allowed to speak on the grounds this week,.

Earlier, there were question marks over whether he would attend events at Waitangi after some iwi leaders, including Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua, threatened to block him in protest of the signing of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.

The Prime Minister will be allocated one hour to speak, with vice chair of the Board of Trustees Mary Tua making clear there could be no political talk.

Any political talk must take place in the political tent, she said.

An official letter had been prepared for the Prime Minister to tell him he was welcome and outlaying what he can speak about.

Ms Tua said the board would meet later this morning at Te Tii Marae to sign the letter.

Rihari Dargaville, a marae kaumatua, says Mr Key is likely to face thousands of protesters when he turns up at Te Tii Marae.

"We're expecting 4000 to 6000, the biggest we've ever seen," he told Radio New Zealand.

"There's another group organising a hikoi, people leaving from Auckland."

Mr Dargaville says because of the anticipated size of crowd, it's been suggested Mr Key speak "in a political sense" in a tent about 150 metres from the marae.

He says that's happened before when prime ministers have visited the marae on Waitangi Day.

Mr Key has not yet confirmed he'll attend on Friday.

He said yesterday that would depend on whether the marae trustees invited him, and according to Mr Dargaville the invitation was extended last night.

Earlier yesterday, veteran activist Titewhai Harawira personally invited Mr Key and said she would escort him onto the marae.

Marae trustees and kaumatua decided to invite Mr Key after an all-day hui of Northland leaders.

The decision overruled a majority vote taken at the hui to block the Prime Minister from attending.

Mr Dargaville says there was "a conglomeration of all sorts" at the hui, about 80 people, and 52 voted.

The result was 38-14 against Mr Key attending.

The problem is the TPP free trade agreement, due to be formally signed in Auckland on Thursday.

Maori leaders and activists say the Government agreed to it without consulting Maori, and it could undermine the nation's sovereignty and the Treaty of Waitangi.

Mr Key says it won't undermine sovereignty and will have no effect on treaty issues.

Newshub. / NZN