While there has been some criticism of Prime Minister Bill English’s decision not to attend the contentious part of the Waitangi celebrations there has also been a lot of support.
Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua, on reviewing an exchange of letters between English’s office and the Waitangi Marae Organising Committee, has switched to supporting English’s stance, saying he had egg on his face after his initial criticism.
A Ngapuhi elder says he wants to apologise to Prime Minister Bill English for calling him a “spoilt child” for not attending Waitangi – saying he now backs English’s decision to stay away.
Kingi Taurua said since making his criticism of English he had seen a letter that was sent to the Prime Minister’s office by the Waitangi Marae Organising Committee.
That stated that during the pre-Waitangi Day powhiri it was preferred that English’s “Maori representatives” speak on his behalf. After the powhiri there would be another event where English and others could freely talk, including about political issues.
Taurua told the Herald that he had mistakenly believed that English had only been told he could not talk politics during the powhiri.
He now felt he had “egg on my face” after he called on English not to be “a spoilt child and run away”, and wanted to meet the Prime Minister on his return from an official visit to Europe to offer an apology.
“I wouldn’t go either. If I got that letter, telling me not to speak and to get somebody else to speak on my behalf, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the place.”
“I want these guys [on the organising committee] out. I want these young bucks to get out. I want now the elderly people to take control of Waitangi Day.
“I’m not happy at all. A lot of the tribe are not happy.”
Taurua said there would be a meeting at Waitangi today.
The letters are here: PM and Waitangi Marae
Bill English has done the right thing in following John Key’s example and opting to maintain National’s prime ministerial boycott of national day commemorations at Waitangi.
That remains the case, despite English opening himself up to accusations that his refusal to front at the birthplace of the nation’s founding document, on the anniversary of its signing, amounts to both a serious dereliction of prime ministerial duty failure of leadership.
The new prime minister’s decision to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps, and stay away from Waitangi, is the right one not only for himself.
It is the right one for the National Party.
Of even more significance, it is more likely than not the right decision for the country.
The brutal truth is that while the Treaty’s influence has grown to the point where it is now cemented into New Zealand’s unwritten constitution, Waitangi Day is sinking under the weight of its conflicting roles.