'Really positive day' - Labour returns to Waitangi's Te Tii Marae for first time since 2017

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Labour's Māori caucus and other Labour MPs have been welcomed onto Waitangi's Te Tii Marae - the first time politicians have been able to return since 2017.

Before entering, Māori-Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis said they wanted to come back and re-establish the relationship.

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".

About 30 protestors lined the road in front of the beachfront marae unhappy with issues around Treaty claims and the local district council.

The Labour MPs walked together up to the marae entrance, with Davis saying other MPs that were not in the Māori caucus also wanted to attend.

Prominent activist Titewhai Harawira led the string of politicians into the marae.

Labour's Māori caucus emerged from the marae about two hours later, with Davis saying the kaupapa was about the caucus coming back to Te Tii and about acknowledging Labour Party kaumātua and Ngāpuhi leader Rudy Taylor. 

Davis said Taylor, prior to his passing late last year, had wanted the Labour Māori caucus to return. 

He also said the MPs had been welcomed warmly and it was a "really good occasion". 

Reflecting on past events, Davis said things had "got a bit out of hand at times". 

"We'll never be able to take politics out of this place. What we want to do is take focus from politicians."

Shortly after, Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little, who also was welcomed into the marae, said his most memorable time at Te Tii was in 2016 when it "absolutely poured with rain and we turned up like drowned rats". 

On if Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would go to the marae, Little said it was up to her but he was "sure at some point she'll come back". 

Official proceedings were relocated to Te Whare Rūnanga Marae, the Upper Treaty Grounds, in 2018.

Ngati Kawa Taituha, chairman of the marae committee, told 1 NEWS last week that local hapū and iwi were excited.

Then Prime Minister Sir John Key was jostled at the entranceway to Te Tii Marae by two young men in 2013.

Further friction followed in subsequent years and Key made the call not to return in 2016.

Taituha said Kelvin Davis approached the Marae committee requesting the return.