Ngāpuhi divided over Key's Waitangi visit

Prime Minister John Key (Simon Wong, file)
Prime Minister John Key (Simon Wong, file)

Prime Minister John Key says his plans for Waitangi weekend are "TBC" amidst a backdrop of uncertainty of whether he'll be allowed on marae grounds or not.

There's division in the Far North about whether Mr Key will be invited onto Te Tii Marae on Waitangi Day.

A hui of Ngāpuhi and Ngati Porou leaders finished this afternoon and voted to block Mr Key from attending.

However, the marae's trustees say the Prime Minister is welcome on Te Tii Marae on February 5.

During that meeting, Ngāpuhi kaumatua Kingi Taurua told iwi leaders to "wake up".

Mr Taurua told the hui that Mr Key is breaking the law by signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and that coming to the marae just days after signing the agreement is "rubbing the salt in".

"I don't understand why we want to welcome a Prime Minister when he has already signed away our sovereignty," he said.

Following the meeting, Mr Taurua told Newshub the tribe's trustees "don't have the power" to decide who to allow onto the marae.

"Your tribe's trustees make sure that the food is on the table. You are not there to make these kind of decisions; it is up to the tribe to make these decisions," he says.

"The trustees don't have that power… they're saying that the trustees have more power than the whole tribe? That is not right, the tribe has the power.

"There's no invite. The tribe will not have the Prime Minister come on."

At his post-Cabinet news conference, Mr Key said his office received an official invitation from Titiwhai Harawira extending an official invite to come onto the marae.

"I attend a number of events at Waitangi each year, including the iwi leader's forum and the dawn service, and it is my strong preference to attend all of them.

"I understand tikanga states Te Tii Marae is the gateway to Waitangi and the Treaty grounds, therefore if I'm not welcome and not permitted to speak at the lower marae I have no intention of gate-crashing events at Waitangi.

"If that is the case, I will celebrate New Zealand's national day in another part of the country."

Mr Key says another meeting will be held tonight to come to an agreement on the decision.

Also at the meeting at Te Tii Marae were Labour MP Kelvin Davis and former MP Dover Samuels.

Mr Davis says those at the hui voted "two-to-one" to not let Mr Key onto the grounds.

"Hau kainga, the home people there, it's their marae. I believe they've decided they will still welcome the Prime Minister on and they're doing that under tikanga, and I think they're going to have the final say in the end," Mr Davis says.

The Labour Party will be at the Waitangi Day events, and Mr Davis says what other parties do is up to them.

"Even though a hui was called to all of Ngāpuhi and at the end of the day, if the trustees want him and they extend the invitation, well then the invitation is there and it is up to [Mr Key] whether he accepts it."

Mr Davis believes the Government has misjudged how Māori feel about the TPP.

"I think the Government has underestimated the depth of feeling from Māori towards the TPPA."

Mr Taurua has threatened to stop government ministers from attending the commemorations because the TPP deal is being signed in Auckland on February 4.

He was worried about the implications of the free trade deal for Māori and said details had been kept secret.

However, Mr Taurua's views aren't shared by everyone within Ngāpuhi.