Ratana Church shows how to protest with dignity

Long-serving organiser of the annual Waitangi Festival, Pita Paraone, says Ratana leaders have shown it is possible to hold a dignified pōwhiri for the Crown while still making a strong protest against the TPP, and Waitangi elders should follow suit.

Fears of a sizeable protest from anti-TPPA protesters at the annual Ratana Church celebrations in January did not materialise.

But several speakers made reference to the deal and how it could affect New Zealanders.

A number of  forcefully expressed misgivings about the free trade deal and urged the Government to delay its signing, until it is discussed more thoroughly with Kiwis.

After fielding criticism, the prime minister John Key responded with an impassioned address about his support for Maori which drew heckles from some in the crowd.

Mr Paraone, who is also a New Zealand First MP, said fiery outbursts from local elders on Waitangi Day always attracted attention but they gave the annual festival a bad rap.

Mr Paraone said people tend to confuse the political shenanigans at the marae on 5 February with Waitangi Day itself, which had for many years now been a peaceful day of ceremony and entertainment.

The organising committee generally received about $80,000 from the government to run the official programme, but he believed the Crown might be more generous if the marae did not repeatedly make unfriendly noises in the lead up to Waitangi Day.

Although the marae got a small amount of that funding to cover the costs of entertaining official guests, including the Governor-General, the Navy and the Crown, it also relied heavily on volunteers to provide food and service the needs of the manuhiri from 4-6 February.


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