Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross is backing the Prime Minister’s decision to not attend the annual powhiri at Te Tii Marae on Waitangi Day.
Bill English will meet iwi leaders at Waitangi on February 3, but will attend Waitangi Day celebrations in Auckland on February 6.
“I am looking forward to meeting with the leaders of the 60 iwi who comprise the Iwi Chair’s Forum, to progress a range of issues of importance to Maoridom and New Zealand,” Mr English said.
“The National-led government has formed a strong relationship with these leaders which has led to significant progress in areas including Treaty settlements, fresh water rights and the development of the Maori economy.”
Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett will lead a Government delegation to the dawn service in Waitangi on Waitangi Day.
“After the issues surrounding the previous Prime Minister’s attendance at Te Tii Marae last year, my office sought clarification from marae kaumatua that I would be welcomed and able speak about issues of importance to New Zealand, as is tradition,” Mr English said.
“However, my office was advised I could attend the powhiri but not speak – conditions which are not acceptable to me.
“While I thank the marae committee for their invitation I will take the opportunity to attend commemorative events to celebrate this important day elsewhere.”
Mr Ross told the Times he is pleased the PM is planning to join most New Zealanders in celebrating Waitangi Day as the positive national day that it should be.
“I’ve been to some of the powhiri at Te Tii Marae in the past few years. Two way, respectful dialogue up there can be constructive but when it descends into protests where the Prime Minister is not permitted to speak, the powhiri no longer has much relevance,” Mr Ross said.
New Zealand is a country with a bicultural history and a multicultural future, he said.
“Maori and the Crown will always talk to each other and, I hope, keep working together well. But Waitangi Day should be about families and communities celebrating New Zealand.
“If the Prime Minister not attending Te Tii Marae means the 6pm news won’t include the annual pictures of the leader of the country being jostled and shouted at, that seems fine to me.
“Enjoy Auckland on 6 February, Bill. Many of us already do.”
By: Nick Krause