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John Key could face cold reception at Waitangi today

Tuesday 5 Feb 2013 5:25 a.m.

By 3 News online staff

Prime Minister John Key will be making his way onto Te Tii Marae at Waitangi today and there are fears he could face a cold reception.

Mr Key heads to the marae as Prime Minister for the fifth time today, the day politicians descend on Waitangi to begin events marking the 173rd anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Mr Key hopes the day will be trouble-free.

"I think the local kaumatua are doing their best to try and make sure there's an opportunity for us to engage and say a few words.

"I hope that's the case. In the end Waitangi should be a place for celebration."

But Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says he believes Mr Key will face protest from some Ngapuhi Iwi members, and he hasn't quashed speculation he may protest 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.

It's still not clear who will lead the Prime Minister onto the marae following an ongoing dispute as to which elder should do it, but Mr Key expects long-term activist Titewhai Harawira to do it.

"My experience of being there in the past is you can be pretty sure Titewhai will be somewhere near me and near the front pretty quickly and I imagine that will be a repeat," he said.

Mr Key is also expected to face criticism in an address by Maori council co-chairman Maanu Paul over the Maori water rights issue.

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.

There was also controversy when Ngapuhi trustees said Ms Harawira should relinquish her role of escorting John Key onto the marae in favour of another elder, Ani Taurua.

Ms Harawira refused, and yesterday morning it was she who welcomed Sir Jerry onto the marae.

3 News / NZN

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