Topics: Politics, Treaty Settlements

PM absent from Tauranga Moana Treaty protest

updated By Talisa Kupenga

Māori MPs are backing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for not meeting Tauranga Moana iwi this morning at parliament saying it was right Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little was there instead.

Tauranga Moana's message rumbled through parliament grounds but did the government hear their calls?

Minister for Māori Development, Nanaia Mahuta says "Yes we heard them."

Labour’s Māori Caucus co-chair Willie Jackson says, "They are very frustrated with us, the Crown right now".

Labour List MP Kiritapu Allan says, "I think our government heard what needed to be said and I'm proud of our whānau".

Some MPs were pulled from the Crown Māori Relations hui this morning to meet the awaiting iwi members.

But where was the prime minister?

Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare says, “"It was cold outside she should be indoors."

Minister Jackson says, "She has a lot of work - it's a big week".

Minister Mahuta says it was Minister for Treaty Settlements, Andrew Little’s place to attend- the prime minister agrees.

"I didn't receive a specific invitation to be there.  I do know the issues.  I'm certainly working closely with our minister to make sure I'm across what's happening with what is a significant dispute,” she says.

National Leader Simon Bridges, who was also absent, says, "I was in Auckland and then I had back-to-back meetings so if I could have been maybe it would have been a good thing to do".

Former prime minister Helen Clark failed to meet foreshore seabed protesters at parliament when she was in office.

Bridges says the PMs absence today could be viewed in a similar light.

He says, "I think this certainly has the potential to have the makings of that.”

Ardern disagrees.

“As I say for foreshore and seabed, the regret was the outcome- not necessarily whether or not someone fronted a protest.  What happened there wasn't right and we've since tried to rectify that wrong what we've seen today is us working through a Treaty process".

Other MPs including National’s Todd Muller and Nuk Korako, New Zealand First’s Jenny Marcroft and The Green Party’s Chloe Swarbrick have since confirmed they were present.