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Ngapuhi elder defends PM on Waitangi

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/01/2017

Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua delivers a speech at Te Tii Marae on Waitangi Day, 2012 © Kenny Rodger/Getty Images Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua delivers a speech at Te Tii Marae on Waitangi Day, 2012 A Ngapuhi elder has defended Prime Minister Bill English's decision not to attend Waitangi Day on Te Tii Marae this year.

Kingi Taurua initially criticised Mr English's decision on Monday, calling the prime minister a "spoilt child", but has retracted those comments after seeing a letter sent to Mr English by the Waitangi Marae Organising Committee.

That letter to Mr English's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson says it would be preferred for a "Maori representative" to speak on his behalf until after the powhiri when a stage would be set up to allow Mr English to speak.

"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 that place," Mr Taurua told Fairfax.

"I'm not happy at all. A lot of the tribe are not happy."

A meeting is expected to be held at Waitangi on Thursday.

Mr English announced on Monday he would not attend because he wasn't being granted speaking rights at the powhiri, a condition he found unacceptable.

He said he would not change his mind even if granted speaking rights.

Mr English will meet with the Iwi Chair's Forum in Waitangi on February 3 but will celebrate Waitangi Day in Auckland.

His deputy Paula Bennett will instead lead the government delegation on Waitangi Day.

His predecessor John Key refused to attend last year after a similar dispute about speaking rights.

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