Aotearoa: New Zealand Prime Minister forced to abandon speech by Maori protest
A series of corporate news reports on protests held in Aotearoa (New Zealand) during Treaty of Waitangi Day celebrations during which NZ Prime Minister John Key was forced to abandon his speech in the face of hostile protests by Maoris.
PM forced to cut short visit to Waitangi marae
Radio New Zealand, Feb 4, 2012
The Prime Minister has cut short his visit to the marae at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands after protest action got too noisy and his speech was drowned out.
John Key led a large party of government ministers, MPs and officials on to Te Tii marae on Sunday morning for an official welcome as part of Waitangi celebrations.
Mr Key’s arrival comes against a backdrop of disquiet over Government obligations to the Treaty of Waitangi in new legislation and funding cuts at the Maori Development Ministry (Te Puni Kokiri).
Each year, New Zealand marks its national day and the signing of the Treaty at the township of Waitangi on 6 January in 1840.
On Sunday morning, about 30 protesters carrying placards and flags remained outside the marae chanting that Aotearoa was not for sale.
Prime Minister John Key arrived and was immediately surrounded by police and Maori wardens.
As he was about to be led onto the marae, a scuffle on the other side broke out involving a small group of protesters, including the Popata brothers who in 2009 were convicted of assaulting Mr Key at Waitangi.
The protesters remained quiet while kaumatua (Maori elders) spoke, but upped the volume when it was Mr Key’s turn.
His speech lasted less than two minutes, which did not give him a chance to address issues including assets sales, as he had promised.
Mr Key quickly left the marae soon after, as protesters tried to block his car, but were held back by police. A short time later, Labour Party leader David Shearer was welcomed on to Te Tii Marae – but to only minor heckling.
Mr Key plans to return to the marae next year and says he did not feel threatened in any way by the protesters.
“At some point, the general view was that we can take those discussions to other parts of Waitangi and continue to have them. We’ll continue to do that. I’m not angry about the situation – I just see it as a bit of a lost opportunity.”
Maori want Treaty obligations upheld
The issue of what kind of Treaty provisions – if any – the Government will put in new legislation to partially sell four state-owned enterprises ignited tensions between National and the Maori Party ahead of this weekend’s celebrations.
Belt-tightening at the Maori Development Ministry, with the projected loss of about 50 jobs, has also led to the Mana Party predicting a hostile reception for the Prime Minister.
John Key says he intends to discuss the matters on Sunday and seek to provide some clarification.
A member of the Iwi Chairs Forum says Mr Key will be told to retain a clause upholding Treaty obligations in legislation relating to partial asset sales.
A member of the forum and chair of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, Mark Solomon, says Northland electorate Te Tai Tokerau is opposed to the idea to removing Section 9 from the legislation.
Mr Solomon says on Sunday it will learn what other iwi think about the Government’s proposal.
The Prime Minister is due to meet with iwi leaders in the afternoon.
Protest erupts at Key’s Waitangi welcome
3News.com, Feb 5, 2012
There was a rush forward of about 20 people holding the Maori flag and signs saying “Stop Deep Sea Drilling”.
The protesters got about 10m before they were tackled by Maori wardens. They did not get close to Mr Key. A cameraman suffered a gash to his forehead during the scuffle.
A group of 50 protesters is also positioned near the marae, which has been the site of major protests in earlier years.
The situation has calmed and the welcome of Mr Key is continuing. Police did not intervene.
Controversy over asset sales and job cuts at Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Maori Development, has raised tensions ahead of the annual event at the marae.
Mana Party leader Hone Harawira told NZ Newswire he hoped Mr Key got the message that Maori would not budge when it came to treaty obligations by the Crown or he would “have a fight on his hands”.
Mr Key planned to raise the asset sales issue with iwi leaders on the marae.
Leader of the Opposition David Shearer is expected at the marae after Mr Key has made his way to the treaty grounds.
Leaders from the Mana Party, the Maori Party and the Greens are also expected.
Signed in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document which established British law while at the same time guaranteeing Maori authority over their land and culture.
Waitangi: PM rues lost opportunity
NZ Herald, Feb 5, 2012
Prime Minister John Key and fellow politicians were verbally abused by protesters during ugly scenes at Waitangi this morning.
Protester Wi Popata heckled prominent Maori MPs at Te Tii Marae, calling Dr Pita Sharples, Te Ururoa Flavell and Hekia Parata “John Key’s niggers.”
“The Treaty’s not for sale,” chanted others.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Maori Wardens and Diplomatic Security Services members kept them away from Mr Key as he made a forced exit after a farcical gathering, during which officials could not be heard for all the chanting.
One protester cried “scumbag” as Mr Key entered his vehicle.
Mr Key said he would to return Te Tii Marae next year despite the verbal barrage he was subjected to.
When he was Leader of the Opposition, Mr Key had criticised then-Prime Minister Helen Clark for stopping the visits to the Lower Marae after she was jostled one year.
“I come to pay my respects to the elders of the marae and at the end of the day I’m just not a Prime Minister that cuts and runs.”
He said the decision was made to halt his speech and leave simply because he could not be heard.
“I didn’t feel in the slightest bit threatened. There was a very heavy police presence.
“I’m not angry about the situation. I just see it as a wasted opportunity.”
He had expected protesters and said they were “familiar faces” – including the Popata brothers, who jostled him in 2009.
A handful of protesters rushed onto the marae when Mr Key first arrived at 10am, knocking aside members of the media as they moved. Two photographers, including one from the Herald, were seen bleeding after the rush.
It is believed the injuries were not caused by deliberate attacks.
“Shame, shame, shame”
Other politicians who arrived to tense scenes at Waitangi included Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, and Northland MP Mike Sabin.
Officials tried to maintain order as one group of protesters chanted loudly against deep sea oil drilling.
Kaumatua John Komene’s earlier plea to respect the official powhiri went ignored by the protesters. As one man held aloft a sign declaring Bill English New Zealand’s “filthy Minister of Finance”, Komene gently asked him, in Te Reo, to show respect.
Across the road, approximately 30 Mana Party supporters stood facing a police cordon at a hedge on the marae’s edge. They chanted slogans at Maori Party co-leader Dr Sharples, who arrived at 9.45am, and drowned out most other noise with a repeated cry of “shame, shame, shame.”
Mana’s Annette Sykes addressed the group with a loud hailer, saying she wished to particularly thank the party’s Pakeha supporters. She continued to speak as the Prime Minister arrived.
Veteran activist Titewhai Harawira arrived well before the proceedings. The elderly mother of Mana leader Hone Hawawira was looking frail and had to be helped by family as she moved on her crutches. Mrs Hawawira was escorted by Superintendent Wally Haumaha, the police’s national manager of Maori-Pacific ethnic services.
Despite the commotion, the actual number of people around the marae appeared to be down from 2011.
Hot air rushes out
The mood turned to calm after the Prime Minister’s exit, with delegations from Labour and the Greens finding a more cordial atmosphere than Government representatives had experienced earlier.
Activist Tame Iti and the Maori Party’s Te Tai Tonga MP Rahui Katene accompanied Labour leader David Shearer onto the marae after 11am, by which time most of the protesters had left. Mr Shearer was joined by Labour MPs Parekura Horomia, Shane Jones, and Andrew Little.
Co-leader Russel Norman and second-term MP David Clendon represented the Green Party.
By NZ Herald staff