English at Ratana

Bill English has attended the annual gathering at Ratana, speaking in Maori “extensively”. He said he had “picked up bits and pieces” and thought it was important to show respect for the language in a formal Maori situation.

Stuff: Bill English attends Ratana for first time as Prime Minister – and a day earlier than expected

The Prime Minister was welcomed to Ratana Pa on Monday for the first time since being appointed as leader and described the reception as the “best of tikanga” in terms of the “hospitality, respectfulness and warmth” he received.

Ratana Church secretary Piri Rurawhe was first to speak and stressed it was their choice to extend an invite to English to attend a day earlier than other political leaders because all are welcome at Ratana Pa, “irrespective of the colour of their skin”.

Rurawhe said having the new Prime Minister attend was about giving the people an opportunity to hear the Government’s plans for the year ahead.

English began his reply to Rurawhe and the Ratana people speaking extensively in Maori without any notes – demonstrating his good grasp of the language.

Speaking to media after, he said he wouldn’t say he was “proficient” but has instead “picked up bits and pieces” in his years in Parliament.

“I just think it’s important when you’re going into a formal Maori situation to show some respect for the language. I don’t know a whole lot, I can understand roughly half of what’s said and I can use some of it,” he said.

English was warmly greeted by Ratana elders when he arrived shortly before midday on Monday and was taken onto the Pa by the local band.

“I just think, as you’ve seen here today, it’s the best of tikanga. It’s good for New Zealand and good for New Zealanders to see it.

“It’s such a positive, warm and hospitable way of doing business.”

English said the decision not to go to Waitangi has been made but that it wasn’t the “only place” that conversations about Maori issues took place.

Te Tii should take note.

RNZ: Prime Minister schools Ngāpuhi on ‘tikanga’

Ngāpuhi kaumātua Kingi Taurua has responded to the Prime Minister’s comments saying if he prefers a tikanga of peace and quiet, Ratana is the place for him.

Mr Taurua is a kaumātua of Te Tii Marae which has hosted the political pōwhiri for decades.

“Each tribe, each marae, has their own method of tikanga. If Ratana has a tikanga that is suitable for the government then well and good but at Waitangi we have a tikanga of challenging government policies in regards to the Treaty of Waitangi,” said Mr Taurua.

English said that the Government had reached it’s limit on dealing with social problems, and he didn’t think that more money and more public servants was going to achieve any more. He indicated more partnerships with ‘the people who know the people’.

(That’s from memory from seeing coverage on 1 News, I’ll update when they put the item up online.)

Ngapuhi elder backs PM’s Waitangi decision

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.

NZ Herald: Ngapuhi elder now backs PM’s Waitangi no show: ‘I wouldn’t go either’

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

Also John Armstrong: The tiresome antics at Waitangi have undermined the power and symbolism of the occasion

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.

Key invited back to Waitangi but…

John  Key will be invited back to Waitangi next year and will be allowed to speak, but there is already talk of protests.

Stuff seven hours ago: Unanimous decision for John Key to return to Waitangi with full speaking rights

At a meeting at Waitangi on Saturday, the organising committee and Ngapuhi elders voted unanimously to invite Key back to Te Tii Marae with no conditions on what he can and can’t speak about.

Chair of the organising committee and NZ First MP, Pita Paraone, said even he was “surprised by the ease in which it went through”.

It’s good to see Paraone in a constructive role.

Paraone said he “couldn’t guarantee” it would be smooth sailing between now and February, but the fact Taurua was on board was significant.

“The fact Kingi led the charge on the reinstatement of powhiri for everyone, I think, carries a lot of weight.”

While Taurua agreed to support Key’s invitation, he won’t be speaking on the marae at Waitangi because of his “personal views” about the Government’s signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

But by 2:50 pm the he3adlin had changed to Protest warning after iwi decision to give John Key speaking rights at Waitangi and the lead paragraph is now:

A Ngapuhi elder held responsible for John Key ditching Waitangi this year has warned protests could flare up if the Prime Minister attends commemorations in February.

And later:

Kingi Taurua, a Ngapuhi elder, who earlier this year warned Key there would be riots if he turned up, said he didn’t know how far protesters would go next year.

Taurua said a lot of iwi were unhappy with him supporting Key’s invitation. While he won’t be involved in any protest, he said he also doesn’t have any control over them.

“If people don’t protest then the Government will think everything is above board. It’s not, so I think the protests should continue,” he said.

So Key will get an invitation with full speaking rights, but will anything change?