Relationships are expected to be mended at Waitangi next week with Labour‘s Māori caucus welcomed onto Te Tii Marae.
It’ll be the first time a political party has returned to the marae after official proceedings were relocated in 2018 following growing tension.
Ngati Kawa Taituha, chairman of the marae committee, says local hapū and iwi are excited.
“We’ve done a bit of growing ourselves over the years. As Ngāpuhi we want to do our part to show that we are ready to go,” he said.
He says Māori-Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis approached the marae committee requesting the return and after much discussion with kaumātua and kuia (elders) it was decided the pōwhiri would go ahead.
“They were supportive of the idea...everyone’s feeling good about it.”
At his first visit to Waitangi in 2009, former Prime Minister Sir John Key was jostled at the entranceway to Te Tii Marae by two young men.
Further friction followed in subsequent years and Key made the call not to return in 2016.
After Jacinda Ardern’s election win the following year – a decision was made by Ngāpuhi elders to move political proceedings to the Upper Treaty Grounds, at Te Whare Rūnanga Marae.
Taituha says the absensce of politicians at Te Tii over the last two years has done the marae and its people good.
“Having a break gave us time to regroup and have time with ourselves without all the pressure and we actually enjoyed that,” he said.
Taituha said that same pressure was part of considerations in welcoming its first political party back next week.
“For us, we were asking what value do we get from these visits?
“In the past all the focus of the cameras has been on Labour or National and others, they get a lot of benefit from coming here and what’s the benefit for mana whenua?”
He said in the end the answer was that it’s about relationship building.
Asked whether he would like to see the Prime Minister at Te Tii Marae, Taituha said the door was always open.
“If we have manuhiri (guests) standing at the gate, they’ll get called into the whare (meeting house).
“Regardless if it’s the Prime Minister...we’re going to give them the call and karanga them into the whare,” he said.
Next week’s return is now seen by many as ‘hohou te rongo’ – to make peace.