Jacinda Ardern quiet on whether Government will return to Waitangi's Te Tii Marae in 2021

Jacinda Ardern is staying quiet on whether the Government will return to Te Tii Marae in 2021, the setting of politically-charged conflicts during the tenure of other New Zealand leaders. 

The Prime Minister was welcomed onto the more neutral Te Whare Rūnanga or 'upper marae' at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on Tuesday, where she was asked if the Government has any plans to return to Te Tii Marae next year. 

"Those aren't matters for me," Ardern told reporters. "Those decisions are all made here by the Waitangi National Trust, so we're in their hands and they make those decisions.

"I'd be comfortable to follow the plan that the Trust build - we've done that ever since I've been coming here... we're in their hands, and however they want to run Waitangi Day is what we do."

Te Tii Marae is where former Prime Minister Helen Clark was met with a barrage of protesters in 2004 following controversy surrounding the Foreshore and Seabed Act. 

It's also where former Prime Minister John Key - during his first visit to Waitangi as leader in 2009 - was grabbed and harassed by two men who had to be dragged away by security.

Former National MP Steven Joyce was pelted in the face with a dildo back in 2016 outside the Te Tii Marae grounds over objections to the TPPA, and it's also where former National leader Don Brash was hit in the face with mud. 

Ardern was elected Prime Minister in 2017, and the following year the decision was made to move all of the political talks to the more neutral Te Whare Rūnanga Marae. 

Former Māori Party co-leader Pita Sharples suggested moving traditional celebrations at Waitangi to the upper marae back in 2013, after he said elders became tired of the political antics. 

But Key was quoted at the time saying he did not believe moving the location would change much. 

It was at the upper marae where Ardern delivered the first speech there from a female Prime Minister in 2018. 

"I do not take lightly the privilege extended to me to speak... today, not only as a Prime Minister but as a wāhine," she said at the time. 

Following Ardern's speech at the marae on Tuesday morning - her third time since becoming Prime Minister - she brushed off suggestions the Government might cause further division if she doesn't return to Te Tii. 

"No, I sat with Titewhai today, and of course you will have heard it doesn't stop the challenge and the discussion and dialogue that we have on the marae... There's plenty of that," Ardern said. 

Titewhai Harawira, a veteran activist and Ngāpuhi kuia, has traditionally welcomed Prime Ministers onto Waitangi maraes, including Ardern. 

Harawira also famously brought Clark to tears in 1998 after she challenged the then-Opposition leader's right to speak at Te Tii Marae as a woman. 

Ardern said the point of Waitangi is that "we're open to having debates and you can see that here as much as you used to on the lower marae". 

Ardern appeared to be referring to the politically-charged comments made during speeches this year at the upper marae when politicians were welcomed with a pōwhiri. 

"I'm here to follow the process and protocols that get set here by the Waitangi Trust," Ardern said. 

You can read more about the history of how recent New Zealand leaders have handled Waitangi here