Return to Te Tii Marae? Winston Peters' anger at protesters who 'crapped on our national day'

A return to Te Tii Marae for politicians could be on the cards, and Winston Peters seems keen on the idea, but fears a repeat of the anti-establishment behaviour displayed there against previous administrations. 

"It's for the local people to decide but, you can recall the past," the New Zealand First leader said at Waitangi on Wednesday when asked if a political return to the controversial lower marae could happen.  

"You have 365 days in the year and they decided to crap all over our national day and some of us in the Māori world don't like it," Peters added, referring to protesters of the past. 

"Some of us got sick and tired of our traditions being stomped on by every outsider that turned up here - we just had a guts full of it."

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. 

Jacinda 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 or 'upper marae'. 

Peters was welcomed onto the upper marae on Tuesday, along with the Jacinda Ardern, Opposition leader Simon Bridges, Green Party co-leader James Shaw, and several other MPs.  

Despite Peters and Bridges exchanging a few verbal jabs on the day, the pōwhiri welcoming the politicians to the marae was peaceful with no protesters in sight. 

"It's better to be up here in what have been very peaceful circumstances and I think this has been a great year," Peters said. "I would be comfortable [going to Te Tii] but not if we're going to have a repeat of past behaviour."

Ardern said the decision to return to Te Tii Marae does not sit with her

"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."

She said if the National Trust decided to shift the commemorations back to Te Tii Marae then she would be comfortable going. 

"I've been coming here as a Member of Parliament for a number of years. I've experienced pōwhiri on the lower marae at Te Tii and I've experienced pōwhiri as we did [on Tuesday]," Ardern said. 

"While there are some differences, the fundamental is the same: we are here as members of political parties to have open dialogue around our relationship between the Crown and Maori and the progress we need to make. 

"Regardless of where that happens, I will be here."

Minister Peeni Henare, Labour MP for the Maori electorate of Tāmaki Makaurau, is of Ngāpuhi descent, the Maori iwi representing Northland. 

He said he would like to see politicians return to Te Tii. 

"I'm supportive of it, I've always been of the opinion that while we brought ceremonies up here, at some point in time we would return there. I'm keen on finding a system that works for both," Henare said. 

"I've certainly expressed my views to my colleagues and to the locals here, given I'm a local myself, to test the waters to what the appetite is to head back down there. 

"Regardless of what everyone is suggesting, me personally, I'm keen to see that marae back involved in some way shape or form."

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.