Waitangi protest disrespectful - former NZ First MP

  • 06/02/2018

A Ngāpuhi elder's brief protest at a public Waitangi church service was disrespectful, the event's former organiser says.

Kingi Taurua led a hikoi of about a dozen protesters on to the Treaty Grounds' upper Te Whare Rūnanga marae on Tuesday morning, disrupting the service for a short time before agreeing to walk off.

Mr Taurua wanted to send a message to the new Government to follow through on its promises, he told media.

But former Waitangi National Trust Board chairman and New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone thought the protesters were wrong to target a church service, especially as neither Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern or her ministers were present.

"Doing what they did today, I don't think it was a sign of respect," he said.

The protest was the only interruption to a Waitangi celebration many have described as more harmonious, unified and calm than in past years.

It comes after Mr Paraone and other organisers of Waitangi last year decided to move the 2018 official pōwhiri for political leaders away from the Te Tii Marae for the first time in decades.

It followed numerous incidents at the lower marae, including protests and former prime ministers John Key and Bill English skipping events at the marae after they were not given the right to speak.

The welcome was instead held on Monday at the Treaty Grounds' upper Te Whare Rūnanga marae.

Mr Paraone said he was not against protests. There had been protests and delays at the original February 1840 signing of the Waitangi Treaty, with Mr Paraone's Maori ancestor not signing it until May that year, he said.

However, organisers believed Waitangi Day should be viewed more as a day when "the different peoples of New Zealand come together and celebrate how lucky we are to be living in this country", he said.