Fine dining . . . and a courtship?
National to woo NZ First at Waitangi Day barbecue celebrations.
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.