Tiki vs tie: Parliament neck-tie stoush soon to be tied-up

The resumption of Parliament has been overshadowed by co-leader of the Māori Party Rawiri Waititi being booted out of Parliament for refusing to wear a tie.

But Speaker Trevor Mallard has now offered Te Paati Māori an olive branch after Waititi vowed he would never bow his head to Pākehā power.

“I will never surrender my culture.”

The stoush kicked off yesterday on the first day back in Parliament when Waititi attempted to ask a question but was told by Mallard to sit down because he wasn’t wearing a tie.

Waititi later attempted to speak again but was again shut down by the Speaker. Waititi continued talking and so was ejected by Mallard.

As he was leaving, Waititi said: “This is not about ties, it is about cultural identity.”

Ngarewa-Packer, who was wearing a tie, attempted to plead his case but Mallard did not change his mind.

Outside the chamber, Waititi called Mallard’s decision a breach of indigenous people’s rights which bordered on being “unconstitutional”.

Waititi questioned why Green MP Ricardo Menéndez was allowed to wear his traditional Mexican bolo tie in the House but his own hei-tiki was not accepted.

In his email to MPs, Mallard said in the debating chamber men must wear a jacket and tie or dress in formal wear of the culture they identify with.

Waititi said his hei-tiki taonga was his formal Maori business attire.

“[Mallard’s decision is] forcing indigenous people into wearing what I described as a colonial noose.”

Late last year Waititi was warned about not wearing a tie and in his maiden speech to Parliament he said in te reo: “Take the noose from around my neck so that I may sing my song.”

In an opinion piece, Waititi said he would “never bow my head to Pākehā power. I will never surrender my culture”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she didn’t have a particularly strong opinion on whether MPs wore ties or not.

But questioned whether a lengthy debate on the stand-off was a good use of Parliamentarians’ time, she said: “I don’t think most New Zealanders care about ties. They care about housing, they care about jobs, they care about us talking about things that matter.”

Labour MP and member of its Māori caucus, Willie Jackson, said Waititi needed to decide what his priorities were and why he was devoting time to a tie rather than the Waikeria prison dispute.

“Who cares? Concentrate on the Māori wards more important than his stupid tie.”

Waititi was also questioned by a Twitter follower whether this was an issue that mattered, he responded:

“Actually it is, how can I lead the quest for my people’s mana motuhake when I can’t achieve my own. I know what my people have elected me to do.”

But the standoff may be heading for a resolution.

Mallard has now offered Te Paati Māori an olive branch.

The party will submit to the Standing Orders Committee asking that hei-tiki be permitted in lieu of a Pākehā tie.

After Rawiri Waititi was ejected from Parliament, Mallard met with his co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer to smooth the matter and asked the party to follow the formal process by putting their views in writing.

Mallard said when he was consulting on whether the jacket-and-tie dress code should be relaxed in the debating chamber he spoke to a number of senior MPs about whether hei-tiki should be accepted.

He would not reveal who he spoke to but said their advice was that it shouldn’t be accepted. Te Paati Māori did not make a submission on the dress code.

Mallard said it was his “strong preference” for ties to be gone altogether and he would be “happy to be overruled”.

A spokesman said Te Paati Māori would either make that submission last night or today.

Once received the matter could be resolved in a matter of days, said Mallard.

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