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PM not bowing to pressure over Maori King

Published: 11:21AM Tuesday June 07, 2011 Source: ONE News/Fairfax

Prime Minister John Key will not be bowing to pressure to change the title of the Maori King.

David Rankin, a leader of the Ngapuhi tribe, is challenging the right of the king - head of the Tainui tribe - to use the title "Maori King" because he is not the king of all Maori.

He has filed a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal under clause two of the Treaty which promises the Crown will protect each tribe's sovereignty.  Rankin argues that calling the head of Tainui the "Maori King" undermines the sovereignity of other tribes.

But Key is not buying into the challenge saying he will continue to use the title Maori King.

"The movement's been around a long time and in the end it's essentially self appointed - a number of tribes agree that - they collectively decided on that position," said Key.

"He's [Rankin] free to challenge that if he wants to - but that's a matter for him."

The Kingitanga was set up in the 1850s to present a united front to British encroachment but involves largely only central North Island tribes, with the king's base in the heart of Tainui's land.

"When he pretends to be our king, then he needs to show his mandate for that or else change his title," Rankin said.

"This is not about what Tuheita wants to call himself. That's his problem. And as far as the Government is concerned, they have no right to use the term 'Maori King'. Tuheitia could be called the King of Huntly, perhaps. I could live with that."

No one from Tainui was available for comment.

Government and Crown agencies compounded the issue, Rankin said.

"Government ministers are always calling him the Maori King ... they don't call the King of Tonga the King of Polynesia," Rankin said.

"The Government is meant to protect all our sovereign rights. How can the sovereignty of Ngapuhi be protected, if the leader of another tribe is said to be our king? This is clearly a violation of our tino rangatiratanga."

According to Rankin, Ngapuhi had always opposed Kingitanga (the King Movement) from which the King Country takes its name after a bowler hat was thrown onto a North Island map to denote the extent of the kingdom.

"Tuheitia is not a traditional Maori leader at all. He hasn't even got the Reo (Maori language). He is someone who pretends to be the King of Maori, which we find offensive."

Rankin said other tribes also found the title offensive.

The King's senior advisers recently sent out protocols for meeting him, saying the King can only be spoken to for two minutes at a time, and women should wear tiara's and avoid trousers in his presence.

Rankin said it is a sign the King is being "sidetracked by the baubles of power".

Treaty of Waitangi specialist Paul Moon says Rankin will have a lot to prove before he can force a title change.

"He has to show there's been some adverse effect as a consequence of this - and that's going to be the thing that is very difficult to prove."

'A little bit pernicious'

Maori academic Rawiri Taonui told TV ONE's Close Up that Rankin's claim is most likely to be seen in Maoridom as "quite trivial and a little bit pernicious".

Taonui said he finds it hard to comprehend that calling King Tuheitia the "Maori King" undermines the sovereignty of other tribes.

He said said it is a bit like saying that calling Queen Elizabeth the Queen of New Zealand infringes the day to day business of the Auckland City Council.

Taonui said the fact of the matter is that King Tuheitia is elected through process in Tainui to be their head of state.

"He weilds no authority over other tribes. He weilds very little, quite limited, authority in his own tribe. And most tribes are quite comfortable with his office, his institution because everyone has their own leaders.

"And for an individual to lodge a claim against the King and say that he's unworthy of his position is quite mystifying."

Rankin told Close Up that in his father's and grandparents' time the king was known as the King of Tainui, but nowadays politicians and government officials call him the King of Maori.

And he said Maori around the country will still say the King is the King of Tainui.