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'It is easy to say I will walk away' from Waitangi - Key

Published: 5:45AM Tuesday February 05, 2013 Source: ONE News


Prime Minister John Key says he remains committed to going to Waitangi every year.

After a shaky beginning, little protest was directed at Key as he arrived and spoke at Waitangi today.

Key said it is "easy to say I will walk away", but attending Waitangi was "an important part of the engagement of dialogue between Crown and Maori".

"History will judge me well for having the courage to come here year after year," he said.

With Key in attendance, the Maori Council got the chance to mend bridges over its court battle with the Government over their water rights today.

"It enabled both parties to come together as equals, stand together on the marae, and that's a hell of a lot better than Christmas last year," said Maori Council co-chairman Maanu Paul.

Welcoming woes

Key's welcome onto Waitangi's Te Tii Marae was delayed by 40 minutes this morning as Titewhai Harawira and Ani Taurua argued over who would escort him.

Both refused to back down and marae officials called in a church minister to help ease the situation.

At one stage marae elder Kingi Taurua told members of the Harawira camp "to shut your bloody mouth".

Taurua warned the women that Key would not be led on at all if they could not sort out their differences.

In the end, there was no protesting and the welcome was very peaceful, said ONE News reporter at Waitangi, Helen Castles.

"Both ladies were with John Key but Titewhai held his arm so it seems she won the battle," said ONE News reporter at Waitangi, Helen Castles.

Marae trustees had selected Ani Taurua to escort Key onto the marae this year, saying it was time for self-appointed VIP escort Harawira to step aside and let other kuia have a turn.

But in the name of peace elders this morning decided that Harawira would be allowed to continue her duty.

Fed up with the shennigans at the lower marae Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples suggested moving the traditional welcome to the upper marae.

He said a move might take some of the heat out of political visits.

ONE News political editor Corin Dann said Sharples' suggestion reflected the fact that many Maori around the country, and within Ngapuhi, would not have liked how the welcome went this morning.

However the prime minister may need to be behind a move to the upper marae in order for it to happen, he said.