When the PM was Opposition Leader he said he would attend Waitangi Day at Waitangi as Prime Minister, for as long as he was PM. He has kept his word and as far as I know is the only Prime Minister to have attended 100%.
I think it is very good for the PM to attend. It is a chance for dialogue and discussion. Shouting past each other is not a substitute for fronting up.
However there is some obligation on the hosts to be good hosts. By that I don’t mean that Waitangi should be protest-free. That is not under their control, and protesters have freedom of speech.
But what I do think is unacceptable is to keep the Prime Minister waiting for almost an hour, while you work out who accompanies him. It is rude, and inconsiderate. I doubt any other Head of Government would sit around for an hour while they have a silly squabble.
The fact that there are some strong personalities like Titewhai Harawira involved, is no excuse. Waitangi Day is once a year. They could have raised this issue months ago to try and get an agreement. Trying to change things at the last minute was always going to end badly.
While I am sure the PM will keep his pledge to always attend, it would be wise for the hosts to consider what responsibilities they have. Having the PM there is a privilege – not a right.