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Key slams protesters during peaceful Waitangi celebrations

Published: 6:24AM Wednesday February 06, 2013 Source: ONE News

Prime Minister John Key has criticised headline-seeking protesters who are "unable to see the world through any lens other than Maori disadvantage" during a Waitangi Day speech.

Key was among 300 people who braved a chilly morning to attend the Waitangi Day dawn service on Treaty Grounds.

He has wrapped up a speech at the Prime Minister's Breakfast where he dismissed a small number of "flamboyant and negative" protesters criticising the Crown's relationship with Maori.

"The problem is that sometimes their diversions - including here at Waitangi - are not only distracting, but they can contribute to putting at risk the public consensus that exists towards the process of settling legitimate Maori grievances."

Key said a small but vocal few are apparently unable to see the world through any lens other than that of Maori disadvantage and seem to be "permanently aggrieved and rarely constructive".

The Prime Minister earlier told Breakfast Waitangi Day was always difficult to "read" but this year had started on a positive note.

No protests marred this morning's celebrations.

"The long and short of it is, it's very really hard to read up here but this year has been good," Key told Breakfast.

"It's been quite quiet. I think it's because it's falling on a Wednesday so people aren't travelling from other parts of the country to come here."

Labour leader David Shearer has also joined the call for peaceful Waitangi Day celebrations.

"I like the idea of celebrating the day in the best possible way and that's positively rather than negatively," Shearer said.

Organisers are expecting around 30,000 people to stream through the Treaty Grounds throughout the day. Stalls, as well as children's activities, have been set up in the lower Marae area.

Organisers are also hoping to break the world Haka record later today. An estimated 3,500 people are expected to perform the mass Haka.

Key 'not convinced' over changing Waitangi location

Key said he was "not at all convinced" moving Waitangi Day celebrations from the lower Marae to the upper Marae on the Treaty Grounds would make for a more peaceful Waitangi Day.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples has suggested moving the traditional welcome to the upper Marae in a move that could take some of the heat out of political visits.

But Key said the move is unlikely to affect the likelihood of protest action.

"What causes the conflict is not the location, it's the activists and people that want to cause that conflict. Would that really change because the location changes?"

However, Key said he would be happy to follow the wishes of Iwi.

Obama wishes Kiwis a happy Waitangi Day

US president Barack Obama and new secretary of state, John Kerry, have wished New Zealanders a happy Waitangi Day.

Kerry, who took up the job this week following Hillary Clinton's retirement, said the US and New Zealand share a strong and enduring relationship.

"On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I send congratulations and best wishes to the people of New Zealand as you commemorate the February 6 anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi, or Te Tiriti o Waitangi," Kerry said in a statement issued from Washington DC.

"This is an opportunity to reflect both upon New Zealand's unique culture and diverse heritage and to celebrate the promise of the future as new generations carry on your rich traditions."