Chief of Navy expects 'different energy' at Waitangi ahead of Government arrival

Waitangi commemorations officially kicked off on Saturday with the first pōwhiri to welcome Opposition MPs onto the Treaty grounds.

But discussions were firmly focussed on the Government, with senior Māori leaders sending warnings of what's to come when they arrive on Monday - after interactions at the Iwi Chairs Forum inflamed already heightened tensions.

Labour and the Greens were warmly welcomed to Waitangi as everyone prepares for a grim Government ceremony come Monday.

"There is tension in the air. There is tension coming politically," said Waitangi National Trust chair Pita Tipene.

Ngāti Whatua chair Dame Rangimārie Naida Glavish issued a warning: tread carefully.

Labour's Peeni Henare defended his use of a metaphor translated as he will lift his gun, aim it at the enemy and let the shots do the talking.

"The bugle has sounded and we've heard that call," he said.

Outgoing Labour MP Kelvin Davis labelled the Government a den of lions, encouraging their hosts to stay strong to their cause.

Kelvin Davis.
Davis. Photo credit: Newshub.

"We must not speak to them like lambs," said Davis.

The Government's advance guard to the north - the visit to the Iwi Chairs Forum on Friday - appears to have inflamed rather than eased tensions among iwi leaders.

"We respect the Prime Minister for what he brought to the meeting, that doesn't mean the words were acceptable," said Tipene.

The Prime Minister was perhaps unawares of the brewing tension as he celebrated Chinese New Year in Auckland.

He's upset some iwi leaders by adding a third pillar to the partnership.

"I heard him say this is about three actors," said Tipene. "The three actors were the Government, iwi/community and business."

That's not how Māori see the equation.

"There are only two in the picture, not three or four or five," said Tipene.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said the relationship is much more than a "simple business transaction".

Two days out from the Government's arrival, it's still relatively serene at Waitangi but everyone can sense the impending interruption - even the Chief of Navy even weighed in.

"I anticipate this weekend will not be the festival of celebrations the last four years have been," Chief of Navy David Proctor said.

Proctor. Photo credit: Newshub.

It was an out of character assessment which he doubled down on when asked by Newshub.

"We don't know what is going to happen. My assessment is that there is likely to be more energy this time... different energy than the last four years," he said.

"If I could wiggle my nose, I would say, let's not do it. The fact is, things have been said."

Waitangi has in the past been unpredictable when politicians come to town, most recently the 2016 flying dildo at Steven Joyce.

Josie Butler was responsible and she's printed a T-shirt saying, 'See you soon David Seymour' with a picture of a dildo on it. She said, however, it wasn't a threat.

On show on Saturday was unity among Māori but a growing divide between Māori and the Crown.