Waitangi commemorations at Te Tii Marae will go ahead next month with local hapū agreeing to hold a three day event.

The decision means it’s now the only show in town for those wanting to mark Aotearoa's national day where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, after the Waitangi National Trust announced last month it would cancel all in-person events at the Upper Treaty Grounds due to Covid-19.

The situation now forces the Prime Minister and other political parties to decide whether or not to return to Te Tii Marae should the invitation be made.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi Marae (Te Tii) had hosted official Waitangi commemorations for decades until growing tension and protest in recent years saw proceedings transferred to the Waitangi National Trust and moved to the Upper Treaty Grounds in 2018.

With the latter now only offering an online event, there is no official excuse for MPs to avoid heading back to the lower marae, if only for this year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in particular had already been expected to visit Te Tii next month after Labour’s Māori caucus was the first political party to officially return last year in an attempt to mend relationships - essentially paving the way for the Prime Minister to follow.

A Government spokesperson said ministers and MPs will consider any invitations to be a guest at events.

"This year we expect most Ministers and MPs will attend events in their own electorates rather than join a large group heading up to Waitangi."

It would continue to support the Waitangi National Trust on its virtual Waitangi Day.

National leader Christopher Luxon will also need to decide if he will take up any potential invite, remembering it was former National Prime Minister Sir John Key who refused to return to Te Tii in 2016.

"The National party would be happy to consider any invitation extended by iwi to attend a Waitangi event at Te Tii," a party spokesperson said.

The last few years, however, have allowed for change at Te Tii Marae, its chairman telling 1NEWS at Waitangi last year that being out of the media spotlight and the absence of politicians had given their people some much needed breathing space.

“We’ve done a bit of growing ourselves,” Ngati Kawa Taituha said.

It’s believed those wanting to attend this year’s commemorations will either need to be fully vaccinated or produce a negative Covid-19 test.

Top Image: Te Tii Marae in 2015. Photo: Getty Images

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