Politics shouldn't be muted at Waitangi -- Little

Andrew Little (file)
Andrew Little (file)

Labour leader Andrew Little has come to Prime Minister John Key's defence, saying he agrees politics shouldn't be muted at Waitangi commemorations.

On Tuesday night, Mr Key was sent a letter from Te Tii Marae trustees with strict rules preventing him from speaking politically on the lower marae.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister responded to the letter calling it a "gagging order", and later confirmed he wouldn't attend proceedings.

This morning, Mr Little said he agreed the Prime Minister had been "mucked around all week" and that he was sympathetic on the issue.

He said Waitangi commemorations should definitely be a chance to talk about political issues and that to prevent it is "wrong".

However, Mr Little admitted that if he had been put in the same position Mr Key had been, he would have responded differently.

"I think he could have come up here and said I am here and I am ready to speak. I think he makes the point that this is a time and a day where we do debate controversial issues which include things like the TPP and he should have been allowed to speak, but he could have said that 'I am coming your way and I am ready to speak' and that would have laid down a challenge to the locals.

"I wouldn't accept constraint."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei however took an entirely different stance, saying she thought the Prime Minister's decision not to attend was disrespectful.

"I think it shows that he is not interested in listening, there are rules in Parliament about who can speak and what they can say, and there are rules here on the marae about the same.

"Our job as politicians is to come here in Waitangi and to listen to the views of people who would otherwise never get the chance to speak to us."

When the news broke yesterday that Mr Key was fighting the restrictions, Newshub spoke to Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua who said he was "pissed off about the bastard" trying to change the kawa (rules).

He said the rules had been in place since the beginning of time, and the Prime Minister was trying to bend the rules to suit his own agenda.

He called the then-possible absence of Mr Key a "blessing in disguise".

Earlier this morning Te Tii Marae told Newshub other National MPs have also decided to boycott events, meaning there will be nobody from the party present at Waitangi.

Listen to Andrew Little's full interview with Newshub here: