Waitangi National Trust Chair would 'love' to hear PM Chris Hipkins speak at pōwhiri

Confusion has erupted at Waitangi over who is allowed to speak at Sunday's main event, the parliamentary pōwhiri.

The stage at Waitangi's upper marae is being set, all ready for Sunday's parliamentary pōwhiri.

But who will take the mic has descended into a palaver.

"I have always said that we need to make sure politicians aren't the centre of the occasions, that we are here for Te Tiriti o Waitangi, not for ourselves," said deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis.

All the confusion was sparked by a letter from the Waitangi National Trust to political parties outlining the tikanga or protocol of the event.

"Those expectations were that we were following tikanga, it wasn't up to the National Trust who spoke for the manuhiri," said Waitangi National Trust chair Pita Tipene.

Manuhiri are visitors to the marae, aka the politicians. 

On Saturday morning, Davis said the Prime Minister would speak at the pōwhiri.

"As manuhiri we reserve the right to decide who speaks for us, that's tikanga from way back," said Davis.

But the winds changed quickly and the Prime Minister made a captain's call.

His office released a statement saying the Prime Minister wouldn't speak because he accepts their rules and tikanga.

"I think it's quite insightful if the Prime Minister is prepared to make a call like that," said Labour MP Peeni Henare. "So there is another 24 hours, so we'll see how that plays out."

After Hipkins said he wouldn't be speaking National went into a flap with a flurry of calls and emerged saying leader Christopher Luxon would be speaking because they got explicit permission from the Trust.

Who can speak at the Parliamentary Powhiri has vexed Waitangi for decades. The last dust-up was in 2021 when National leader Judith Collins couldn't speak on the paepae because she was a woman.

Keen to take the heat out of the issue this year, the Trust wrote the letter 

Asked if at any point did the Trust say the Prime Minister couldn't speak, Tipene said, "not at all".

"I'm not sure what's caused confusion," he said.

And he'll be a bit gutted if Hipkins stays quiet.

"Everybody wants to get to know the Prime Minister more. I would love to hear the Prime Minister speak."

After the prime ministerial muddle, Hipkins is apparently very chill about whether he speaks or not. His office says Hipkins is "super relaxed" and "happy to go with the flow". If the Waitangi Trust is keen for him to speak, he is happy to, so he will.