Titewhai Harawira has become somewhat of an icon at Waitangi Day. Year after year she has escorted Prime Ministers, and in some cases growled at Prime Ministers on Te Tii Marae.
According to Kingi Taurua member of Te Tii Marae trust, they want to give other kuia who have been at the Marae throughout the years, cooking, cleaning and helping with preparations the opportunity to guide dignitaries.
This year the matriarch of the Harawira family was asked to step aside and give someone else an opportunity. Mr Taurua says the only time the members of Te Tii Marae see Titewhai in the area is when all eyes are on the Prime Minister for Waitangi day celebrations, and all other times the Marae needs support or anything else she is nowhere to be found.
While John Key is the man at the centre of the question as to who will guide him onto the Marae this year he is remaining tight lipped about his preference, “I don’t try and engage myself in Māori politics but whoever they decide on will be good enough for me”.
However when Te Kāea contacted Titewhai Harawira to seek a response to the call from Mr Taurua, she simply said: "I'm not interested in what Kingi has to say, I don’t want to hear it and I will not lower myself to his standards”.
Harawira’s reign as top brass escort began back in 1999, the year she surprised many when she turned up holding the hand of then Prime Minister Jenny Shipley. Since then she has not only escorted but berated Helen Clark onto the paepae and more recently has been the escort for incumbent John Key.
Harawira says 5 years ago Kingi Taurua threatened to ban her from Te Tii Marae and throw her off the bridge.
Harawira says she has a more pressing issue at the fore this year and it is one that she will be voicing.
She says her focus will be on raising discussion and addressing the issue of violence against children and she will be forcing Māori families to address this. She says what is the point of getting Waitangi Treaty settlements when we have no generations behind us to carry our dreams forward.
Despite the two parties being on opposite sides of the fence they both seem to be at one mind when it comes to keeping the peace at the event.
Mr Taurua says it is fine to stage a protest at the event but do so in a manner that is befitting of the prestige of the occasion and the people. He says our job here as tangata whenua is to welcome and receive visitors onto the Marae and that is it.
Reporter: Amomai Pihama.