National leader Judith Collins says she wasn’t invited to Waitangi's Te Tii Marae, but she is looking forward to the rest of the week’s proceedings.
It comes as the Labour Māori caucus today returned to Te Tii Marae, without Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, marking the first time politicians have been able to return since 2017.
Labour’s deputy leader Kelvin Davis said Ardern wouldn’t arrive at Waitangi until later this afternoon, and it would be up to her to make arrangements if she wished to go to Te Tii in the future.
Collins said she would be at Te Whare Rūnanga, the “upper marae” at Waitangi, later this week.
But, she was mum about what her message would be on the paepae.
As for whether politics should return to the “lower marae” at Te Tii, Collins said: “That’s up to the people of Te Tii Marae.”
“I don’t want to tell other people what to do on their own marae any more than I want them to tell me what to do in my own home … I just think that we should be really grateful as a country,” she said.
Collins said Ardern should “to make her own calls” about whether she wanted to return to Te Tii.
When asked about accusations that the National Party politicised Waitangi last year, Collins said she was expecting a “slimmed down” event this year, anyway.
The Māori Party last week said they would not be travelling to the Bay of Islands to commemorate Waitangi Day due to the Northland Covid case, under advice from iwi.
“I just think we should all be grateful to be alive, happy and healthy and live in New Zealand,” Collins said.
She also criticised Labour’s announcement today it would create a $150 million investment fund to grow assets for Treaty negotiations with Ngāpuhi.
Collins said Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little promised years ago an agreement would be reached with Ngāpuhi.
“Four years later and there’s nothing,” she said.
Collins also speculated the announcement was timed to coincide with Waitangi proceedings.
Official proceedings were relocated to Te Whare Rūnanga Marae, the Upper Treaty Grounds, in 2018 after growing tensions during Waitangi.
In 1998, then-Labour leader Helen Clark was denied speaking rights at Te Tii Marae. She didn’t return the following year.
In 2004, a protestor threw mud at then-National leader Don Brash outside the marae.
In 2009, protestors confronted then-Prime Minister John Key as he entered the marae.
In 2016, Minister of Finance Steven Joyce was hit with a dildo as he attended proceedings at the marae.
Today, Māori-Crown Relations Minister Davis said the Labour Māori caucus wanted to come back and re-establish relationships with the marae.
He said it was a "really positive day" and that they had worked to move the focus "towards Te Tiriti itself and away from personalities".