Waitangi speaking snub: Greens co-leader Marama Davidson lays into National's Judith Collins over lack of 'cultural expertise'

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson has laid into Judith Collins over her speaking snub at Waitangi, saying the National leader does not possess the cultural expertise to understand. 

Jacinda Ardern was the first female Prime Minister to be given the right to speak at Waitangi's Te Whare Rūnanga upper marae in 2018. She was allowed to speak at this year's pōwhiri for parliamentarians - but Collins was not. 

National's deputy leader Shane Reti spoke on Collins' behalf on Thursday, challenging Ngāpuhi to let women speak on the marae. It worked, with Te Waihoroi Shortland, of Ngati Hine, confirming that Collins not being able to speak "will be fixed" next year. 

"I think it's a good, firming message for every young woman that no matter where she is she doesn't need to be told that women often lead from the back. There are times when women also want to lead from the front, and this is one of them," Collins told reporters. 

"I think there was an unfortunate decision but we've dealt with that in a very positive light for next year and I think that's a good message for every young woman out there that there are ways to deal with this."

But Davidson says Collins does not possess the "cultural expertise" to understand tikanga, Māori practices and values. 

"It is up to the hokainga or marae to decide who speaks and what roles are taken," Davidson told reporters on Friday at the Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands. 

"One thing that Judith Collins does not uphold is the status of wāhine Māori outside of just speaking from the taumata [front row of speakers] and she does not have the cultural expertise to be able to acknowledge that wāhine Māori need to lead the discussion about what our roles are and where we put our voices."

Davidson said Collins does not have the cultural expertise to "understand the significance that the first voice and the only voice that can allow for pōwhiri to happen is the karanga", meaning Māori cultural protocol. 

"She undermines the meaning of the karanga by coming from a Pākehā woman's perspective of where the status of Māori women is," Davidson added. 

"In saying that, it is Māori women who have long been leading and asking to review our tikanga in a way that upholds the genesis of the mana of wāhine."

Ardern said the decision ultimately lies with the Waitangi National Trust.

"They're making those decisions around how they're running the pōwhiri for all parliamentarians on the day," she told reporters on Friday in Whangārei. 

"I've had that opportunity to speak on each occasion and I'm in the trust's hands as to how they manage that, but they themselves have already indicated that they'll be looking to create an environment where you'll be seeing more female leaders able to speak.

"I've never taken it for granted. I consider it a privilege. I take it very seriously each year and I've committed because of that opportunity that I've been given, to return every year."

During the parliamentary pōwhiri on Thursday, Ardern, Collins and Davidson sat alongside each other - a scene which was recognised by Ngāpuhi elder Hone Sadler who suggested women could be the key to getting things done in politics. 

"Perhaps you are the sacred trio," Sadler said in his address. 

Davidson and Collins have a history of controversy.

Collins took a crack at the Greens co-leader during the election campaign about the prospect of her becoming Deputy Prime Minister if the Greens formed a coalition with Labour. 

Collins said the public should be "concerned", but Davidson brushed it off as a "desperate bid" by a party "in complete and utter chaos". 

Davidson also recently lashed out at Collins' theory that "the biggest diversity of all is diversity of thought", describing it as "bizarre".