'We have been disrespected'.
That was the resounding response from Māori leaders at Waitangi today, after a request for politicians to join a panel-talk on the Treaty of Waitangi following the parliamentary pōwhiri was largely ignored.
The panel was introduced this year by the National Waitangi Trust, and endorsed by local hapū, to re-focus a day often dominated by politics to one firmly focused on our founding document.
Political parties had been aware of the invitation, but Ngāti Hine kaumātua Waihoroi Shortland, delivered a stern reminder during the pōwhiri.
“Each and everyone of you are expected to come back. Otherwise, next time, I will not feed you,” he said.
“Every time we feed people they go home, or they go elsewhere. Enjoy the hospitality after these proceedings and then come back and let’s complete this and allow us to hear the houses of Governent speak alongside the house of Māoridom.”
When the hākari was over and the cups of teas had emptied, the vast majority of them did not show up.
Māori Climate Activist, India Logan-Riley, was among the panel of nine, and veered away from her prepared speaking points to address the matter.
“To disrespect the invitation of our kaumātua in that way is a disgrace, it's disgusting, you should have been here,” she said.
Her sentiment was reiterated by fellow panellist and Waikato-Tainui descendant Tukuroirangi Morgan, who directly addressed Waihoroi Shortland sitting a short distance away.
“It is the ultimate insult for someone of your mana to reach out to political leaders in this country to come back here on this marae to talk about the significance of the relationship between Māori and pakeha, [only for it to be ignored].
“They parroted the importance of the relationship, and they don’t have the audacity, nor the respect, to turn up.”
Other members of the panel included Labour’s Peeni Henare, the Green Party’s Marama Davidson, National’s Shane Reti and the Maori Party’s Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.
Peeni Henare said in a statement, “the Government has had a full and active programme at Waitangi since Thursday, with a range of Ministers and MPs present.
“The Government programme has been planned for months. The political panel was only confirmed a few weeks ago and we made sure that Minister Henare attended. Other Labour MPs were also present.”
The National Party said in a statement it had a representative at the panel.
“National was pleased to put forward Dr Shane Reti as its representative at the panel where he was joined by a number of his colleagues. Not all of National’s caucus who travelled to Waitangi were able to attend due to other commitments.”
“For the Green Party, the political panel was a necessary and important opportunity to discuss where we are as a nation 183 years after the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as well as the work we still have ahead to guarantee mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga," a Green Party spokesperson said.
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said, "It was an honour to be invited and to take part in the panel. This is where the real conversations happen and we have an obligation to front up and show accountability to our people. Politicians need to stop treating Waitangi as a place for headlines and one sided conversations"
The Waitangi National Trust Chair, Pita Tipene, had the last word of the day.
“We have been disrespected. It only goes to emphasise the many words that the many words expressed on this marae ātea only an hour before has all been empty words.
“If we are talking about relationships and partnerships then people need to front up and have the conversations.”
The media was also called-out for ignoring requests by the Trust to wait until after the panel discussion for interviews.