Fine din­ing . . . and a courtship?

Na­tional to woo NZ First at Wai­tangi Day bar­be­cue cel­e­bra­tions.

Herald on Sunday - - NEWS -

Cray­fish of the north — be very afraid. Wai­tangi Day looms and the PM is in town. And even though Jacinda Ardern can­not eat seafood, that has not spared the crus­taceans and shell­fish of the North as the hosts pile ta­bles for the ha¯kari, the feasts af­ter the powhiri.

Ardern’s ex­tended visit up north has seen at least three big feasts: Te Aupo¯ uri went on a mas­sive col­lect­ing mis­sion to feed the Iwi Lead­ers’ Fo­rum, Ngati Manu were also de­ter­mined not to stint for the Prime Min­is­ter’s visit to Ka¯retu Marae to hon­our her deputy leader, Kelvin Davis, at his home marae.

The elder there re­marked that the last time a prime min­is­ter had come was when He­len Clark fronted in 2008.

Davis had asked for some tea and scones. Ardern got a full-blown feast.

Last but not least on the feasts front is NZ First Shane Jones’ tra­di­tional an­nual Wai­tangi Party tonight.

The ta­bles there will boast about 100 cray­fish (yes, there was a per­mit), paua, tu­atua and other del­i­ca­cies from the sea as well as tuna from Fiji.

All of it will be pre­pared by Jones’ wife, Dot, and her merry band of helpers.

The party this year is to cel­e­brate the cou­ple’s wed­ding in Jan­uary in Raro­tonga. But it could also see the start of an­other courtship: that of Na­tional try­ing to woo NZ First.

It is un­der­stood that af­ter ini­tially de­clin­ing the in­vi­ta­tion, about 12 Na­tional MPs will be go­ing, led by Steven Joyce.

NZ First leader Winston Peters will also be there.

Na­tional MPs have al­ways at­tended in dif­fer­ent num­bers — the first year it was just Mark Mitchell and Al­fred Ngaro but since then Joyce and oth­ers have at­tended.

This year was al­most a no-show but there is con­cern among some Na­tional MPs about clos­ing NZ First out. So the party could well mark an at­tempt at try­ing to re­store some am­i­ca­bil­ity to the re­la­tion­ship lest 2020 be a re­peat of 2017 — and NZ First has the bal­ance of power.

So di­verse is Jones’ field of friends that his party is like the wa­ter­ing hole in the desert — a melee of peo­ple who are nat­u­ral en­e­mies gather there to drink.

They in­clude politi­cians, busi­ness peo­ple, me­dia and fam­ily. They in­clude fish­eries in­ter­ests and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists . . . oh, hang on. Such is the an­tipa­thy NZ First has to­wards the Govern­ment sup­port part­ner, the Greens, that al­though all the Na­tional MPs in town were in­vited the only Green Party MP to get an in­vite was the leader, James Shaw.

Al­though it is an in­vite-only party, it doesn’t stop gate­crash­ers and Shaw is ex­pected to have some com­pany in the form of Julie Anne Gen­ter.

As for Ardern, she will have a day off up north be­fore the for­mal cer­e­monies for Wai­tangi be­gin to­mor­row. Her day at the peace­ful marae in the Ka¯ retu val­ley will have gone some way to restor­ing the faith of politi­cians in the hos­pi­tal­ity of the North, af­ter the of­ten bit­ter taste powhiri at Te Tii Marae might have left.

Ardern was gifted some pounamu and the marae took line hon­ours as the first not to gift her a baby name, al­though there was a joke “now, with those taonga goes nam­ing rights”.

Ardern also likely learned that among Ma¯ oridom in the North there is no such thing as a se­cret. The event at the marae was in­tended to be a sur­prise for Davis. Even me­dia were cau­tioned to be care­ful not to men­tion it to him.

He drily ob­served it was “as much of a sur­prise as an open in­vi­ta­tion on Face­book can be”.

In the end the only per­son who got a sur­prise was Ardern’s part­ner, Clarke Gay­ford, who had pre­sumed his of­fi­cial du­ties were over af­ter the powhiri and had gone awol.

Then his name was called out to re­ceive a taonga dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tions, ne­ces­si­tat­ing a sprint back into the meet­ing house, tear­ing his shoes off as he went, to the sound­track of the crowd laugh­ing and clap­ping.

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