Regional | Whakatōhea

Big day for Te Whakatōhea spoilt by parliamentary protocol; Rurawhe proposes simple modification

What was to be a momentous occasion for Te Whakatōhea descended into angry debate in a clash of tikanga Māori and parliamentary protocol.

A large contingent of descendants from Te Whakatōhea proudly gathered at Parliament today to hear the third and final reading of the Whakatōhea Claims Settlement Bill.

At the conclusion of the final reading, Te Whakatōhea was invited by Assistant Speaker Maureen Pugh to close off official proceedings with a waiata, which is a common practice in Parliament.

As part of the waiata, Iwi leader Te Kāhautu Maxwell rose to deliver an acknowledgement but was quickly cut off by the Assistant Speaker who said that permission was granted to sing a waiata and not to make a speech from the public gallery.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi raised a point of order to express his frustration, saying the move to interrupt Maxwell was “extremely insulting” and demanded that the acting Speaker apologise to Te Whakatōhea.

“I call on the Speaker to apologise to Te Whakatōhea for rudely interrupting.”

Labour MP Willie Jackson and Greens MP Steve Able both stood to support Te Pāti Māori’s request for an apology to Te Whakatōhea.

“That moment then was a complete unnecessary interruption. An affront to an otherwise very dignified and positive process,” Able said.

But, appearing before the House moved on to other business, Speaker Gerry Brownlee arrived and said his role was to uphold the tikanga of the House, which didn’t include speeches from the gallery.

Former speaker Adrian Rurawhe told Te Ao Māori News it was an the unfortunate clash of tikanga of the House and tikanga Māori.

He said there was an opportunity to change the standing orders to allow for the tikanga of mihi to take place where appropriate, a process he says he would encourage Te Whakatōhea to participate in, if it wished.

Te Whakatōhea delegation also included iwi member and former MP Tuariki Delamere who described the incident as “unfortunate”.