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Key slams Clark's absence from marae

Published: 6:41AM Tuesday February 05, 2008 Source: ONE News/Newstalk ZB

National leader John Key has delivered a broadside to an absent Helen Clark as politicians gathered at a Waitangi marae the day before Waitangi Day is marked.

Key was keeping unlikely company and the Prime Minister drew fire from all sides for her absence at Te Ti Marae on Tuesday.

According to police, veteran Maori activist Tame Iti posed a security risk to Key.  But then Waitangi commemorations have a habit of throwing up some unusual combinations, including the National leader and Maori activist Titewhai Harawira, who took his hand and led him onto the marae.

"She respected the fact I fronted up. She grabbed my hand and made sure I found my hand and found the right way in." Key says.

While the security was heavy and the weather sometimes wild, Key got a warm reception at Te Ti Marae and says trouble in previous years is no excuse for Clark to stay away.

"Well I think she should get over it. I mean quite honestly, she's had some issues here but time has moved on. I think the whole focus of the events here is different - it's an opportunity for her to engage. Frankly, from the National Party's perspective we don't care," says Key.

Labour has been focusing on Maori issues on Tuesday. An agreement was reached recognising Ngati Porou's customary rights over East Cape coastline, the first such deal under the Seabed and Foreshore Act.

And while Clark wasn't at Te Ti Marae she was just half an hour up the road, showcasing Kelvin Davis, Labour's candidate for Te Tai Tokerau, held by the Maori Party's Hone Harawira.

Clark says she thinks it's important there is a good level of dignity around Waitangi Day.  She says she has seen Waitangi in all its moods, having been at Waitangi 14 of the last 15 years, so is not unfamiliar with the way things work.

The Prime Minister's absence from Waitangi though drew flak, even from her allies.

"It doesn't seem a very wise judgment to make - but that's just my view," says Jeanette Fitzsimons, Green MP.
 
The PM says her office had late notice of a leader's debate held at Te Ti Marae and the government was represented by Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia.

She has refused to return to the marae since she was jostled in 2004.

But if the Prime Minister left a void at Waitangi, it was happily filled by the man who wants that job, John Key.

Land claim "waste of time"

A Maori historian believes the latest land claim at Waitangi is a waste of time.

David Rankin wants 97 hectares of Bay of Islands land, which takes in the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, returned to the Ngapuhi hapu Matarahurahu

Rankin says he will be asking Auckland University of Technology historian Paul Moon to help research his claim.

But Moon says there is no point, because the land in question is deemed private property and the Waitangi Tribunal can't consider claims on private land.

Matarahurahu elder Kingi Taurua also has concerns about the claim.

Taurua says Rankin should settle down and speak to his people first. He says Rankin lives in Auckland and if he is serious about the claim he should return to the Far North.

What does Waitangi Day mean to you? How does the Treaty affect you? Share your thoughts on our message board below.

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