The Prime Minister will get a "warm and robust" welcome onto Te Tii Marae at Waitangi tomorrow, says Mana Party leader Hone Harawira.
Mr Harawira wouldn't be drawn on what he thinks will take place, but says he expects some Ngapuhi iwi members will use protest to raise issues with John Key. He has also not ruled out protesting himself.
“This is the place where those things get raised,” he says.
“A local trustee has the right to raise them. And as the local MP, so do I.”
Last year, Mr Harawira’s nephews Wi and John Popata led vocal protests during Mr Key’s address, forcing him to cut his speech short.
There have already been fireworks in the lead up to Waitangi Day. The entry of Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae was briefly interrupted by Ms Harawira’s son Aata, who had a brief scuffle with the welcoming party.
Aata Harawira was unavailable to talk to 3 News to explain why had had interrupted proceedings.
There was also controversy when Ngapuhi trustees said long-term activist Titewhai Harawira should relinquish her role of escorting John Key onto the marae in favour of another elder, Ani Taurua.
Ms Harawira refused, and this morning it was she who welcomed Sir Jerry onto the marae.
Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua says Ms Taurua had stood aside because she “didn’t want any trouble”.
“Ani is still standing firm that she will go and lead them on tomorrow, but tomorrow is another day – we will see what happens then,” he says.
Ms Harawira has had the self-appointed role of welcoming politicians onto the marae for 20 years, but Mr Taurua says other elders more involved in the day-to-day running of the marae deserve it more.
“The only time you see Titewhai is on Waitangi day. She doesn’t even dirty her fingernails, she doesn’t do the dishes, she doesn’t clean the toilets. She’s beyond those kind of chores.
“All she does is put on her lipstick and paint her toenails and then come on [to the marae]. And then after Waitangi Day is finished she’s gone – disappeared like a moa.”
Mr Taurua says the scrap has been an embarrassment to Ngapuhi.
“The Governor-General said he was reluctant to come here – that he was in two minds about whether to come because of what was in the paper saying there’ll be problems here.”
But Mr Harawira says the fight has been messy and unnecessary, and if Mr Taurua had issues with his mother’s involvement, he should have raised them when iwi leaders met this morning.
“He spoke in the house for half an hour – didn’t even mention it.”
One form of protest looks certain to take place tomorrow. The Prime Minister will be addressed by Maori Council co-chairman Maanu Paul, who will speak on the water rights debate currently being considered by the Supreme Court.
Mr Paul says it is the only opportunity the council will have to speak directly to Mr Key, whom Mr Paul says has treated Maori with “great disdain, with dishonour”.
“The Government has adopted a brutal way of trying to isolate the importance of the Maori Council as a treaty partner to the Crown,” he says.
“We need to sit down and discuss this, and as long as the Prime Minister refuses to do so, he is delaying us justice.”
It’s unlikely Mr Paul’s speech will change the Government’s position as it waits for the Supreme Court’s decision on whether asset sales should be delayed while the issue of Maori rights to water is resolved.