Speaking rights or not PM won’t attend Waitangi Day commemorations

By Talisa Kupenga
  • Northland

Prime Minister Bill English will be a no-show at this year's Waitangi Day commemorations, saying that being denied speaking rights at Te Tii Marae's welcome is "not acceptable" and "not respectful" of his role. But Te Tii Marae leader Kingi Taurua says protocols will not be changed for anyone, and the PM along with everyone else, can speak in the tent.

Kingi Taurua is surprised the Prime Minister will be a no-show at this year's Waitangi Day commemorations at Te Tii Marae.

Te Tii elder Kingi Taurua told Te Kāea, “What's the problem with us making protocols at our marae that are similar to the protocols adhered to at the Beehive?”

The protocols will be the same as last year; no one will have speaking rights at the welcome and political talk will be held in the tent.

PM Bill English says, “Look It's a group that's always been a bit disorganised around Waitangi Day. This is a day that New Zealander's want to be proud of their country. We're doing very well as a country.”

When asked if Prime Minister Bill English was above protocols he gave the following response.

"No, but we have the right to decide whether we go to the marae. That's the protocol. The protocol is I don't have to go on to that marae if the arrangements aren’t respectful for New Zealand and New Zealanders."

But Taurua says it's not about a lack of respect, but instigating change.

“When you look back there has been a lot of issues raised at the marae which have created problems. From now on we want the marae to serve only as a place for welcoming and looking after the people.”

Taurua was unaware letters had been exchanged in the past month about the matter between the PM's office and a Waitangi Marae representative, and despite a final decision to be made by Te Tii Marae committee on Thursday the PM says he still won't attend.

“It's not a matter of disrespect it’s a matter about making a decision,” says English.

“The protocols will not be changed. It is not his place to determine our protocols,” says Taurua.

Deputy PM Paula Bennett will attend the dawn service.