The road to Waitangi

John Key
John Key
New Zealanders will have the opportunity, it now seems, to watch Prime Minister John Key be subject to protest and abuse as he visits Te Tii Marae.

The images will no doubt be provocative and play right into the hands of both the opponents of the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement and the supporters who are likely to firm up their support as they witness this country's top politician subject to embarrassing displays of loathing.

The road to Waitangi has been a fraught one for the Prime Minister who said plainly he would not go if he was not invited.

On Tuesday, Northland iwi leaders met to discuss whether Mr Key would be blocked from the marae because of his handling of the TPP, which some Maori leaders have proposed.

A vote called for at the meeting meant leaders voting 38-14 in favour of stopping him from attending.

Mr Key confirmed yesterday, he has been extended a formal invitation to Waitangi, with full speaking rights.

It is Titewhai Harawira, who has escorted on to the marae for many years, along with Ngapuhi co-chairman Rudy Taylor and other leaders, who agreed to the vote going ahead despite their support for Mr Key at marae.

This has caused division among trustees, with some saying the Prime Minister will not be welcome to speak if he turns up.

This must be of major concern to not only Mr Key, but the more than one million New Zealanders who voted for National, particularly for the leadership of Mr Key, at the election in 2014.

He remains by far the most popular politician of a generation and deserves to be heard on Waitangi Day for that very reason.

The small number of Maori leaders trying and ban the Prime Minister from attending Te Tii Marae must lead to a reassessment of Waitangi Day celebrations.

Each year, an issue arises which causes Maori some angst in the lead up to what should be a celebration of the birth of New Zealand.

Previously, the issues have involved whether the Maori flag should be flown on the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day. Former prime minister Helen Clark faced a similar situation to Mr Key, wondering if she would be invited to the marae.

Maori feature for the wrong reasons in some of the worst housing, education and prison statistics published in this country.

They suffer far more deprivation an inequality than non-Maori in society and Waitangi Day could be used for seeking solutions to those problems holding back a large percentage of the population.

Instead, a few iwi leaders, and a large base of protesters, will protest about a trade agreement which has a distinct clause protecting future governments when dealing with Treaty of Waitangi claims.

Maori enterprise continues to make up an increasing amount of New Zealand's economy and yet a few loud and negative voices will drown out the Maori who feel they will benefit from the fall of trade tariffs.

There will be theatrics tomorrow and Saturday. There will be emotional speeches made, garnering much attention.

The Prime Minister could well be shoved and yelled at, putting his safety and those attending with him at risk.

The TPP will not be reversed on Monday, no matter how many protesters crowd Auckland streets today and Waitangi for the rest of the week.

The images of angry people frothing at the mouth will make for great celebration among narrow sectors of the community.

But they mean little to the vast majority of Kiwis who are becoming cynical about demands being made on them by a few.

Perhaps it is time for Mr Key, and future prime ministers, to celebrate Waitangi Day at a place where they can comfortably engage in dialogue with all New Zealanders who take pride in their heritage established on February 6.

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