It was an invitation to Waitangi that was returned to sender by the new prime minister. However, according to some Māori MPs it was a decision made in ignorance. Te Taitokerau MP Kelvin Davis says that there has been a misunderstanding over the objectives the home people at Waitangi have for this year's celebrations.
Referring to Prime Minister Bill English’s decision not to attend the Waitangi commemorations, due in part to speaking restrictions, Davis says, “That's the problem with people who are ignorant to customs on a marae. If he stands, who will stop him? No one.”
Marama Fox of the Maori Party says that the decision to attend Waitangi or not is for the prime minister to decide, but doesn’t think he should have a say and what the speaking protocol is at Te Tii Marae.
“When in Rome you do as the Romans do. The same principle applies when on the marae,” says Fox.
New Zealand First MP and Waitangi National Trust Board Chair Pita Paraone says that there is a forum for the prime minister to speak if he wishes to debate politics at Waitangi. “The home people explained to him that the powhiri was for welcoming the guests and that's all. If the visitors wanted to talk politics then there was a place for them but in a different forum.”
This is the second year in the row that the prime minister has snubbed Waitangi on Waitangi Day.
Last year Prime Minister John Key instead went to the Auckland Nines.