Standing up for future generations of Māori was the aim of a hīkoi in Whangārei on Tuesday morning, part of a nationwide protest led by Te Pāti Māori.
About 600 people took part in the early-morning march through central Whangārei, said to be the first of many, in a stand against Government policies labelled “anti-Māori”.
The policies include introducing a Treaty Principles Bill based on Act Party policy, having public service departments’ primary names in English and removing co-governance from the delivery of public services.
Organiser Te Hiwi Preston said the hīkoi was about creating the best for the next generation of Māori.
“Our politicians are today pledging an oath to the King. Here we are pledging our oath to our mokopuna [grandchildren].”
With an upbeat vibe, the hīkoi included a strong display of Tino Rangitiratanga and He Whakaputanga: United Tribes flags.
Some protesters spelled out their thoughts with signs urging the honouring of the Treaty of Waitangi and one sign read: “Gaza today Māori apopo [tomorrow]”.
There were some traffic disruptions as the protest spilled from the footpaths onto the streets, with police briefly closing roads as the hīkoi went past.
Young parents Ziarna Mackey and Tremaine King said they were protesting to protect the future of their 11-month-old Tohu King - who would have been one of the youngest at the hīkoi.
Mackey said she wanted her child to be able to speak te reo Māori and not face the same oppression as her grandmother, who was beaten for speaking the language.
“It’s so that he doesn’t grow up wondering why he can’t speak the language ... It’s our responsibility as parents.”
Young Tohu was unfazed by the action, despite many noisy toots in support of the 30-minute march.
He was happy to play with a green flag saying “Proud to be Māori”, which he had been playing with since he was just 3 months old, Mackey said.
One kaumātua, Tohe Ashby, said te reo Māori is the language of this country and it was important to stand up for it.
He reassured those who do not speak the language there will be English translations, but said being unable to understand te reo was no reason to strip it from Māori.
Ashby said New Zealanders need to understand the articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi.
Another organiser, Rueben Taipari, agreed, saying the hīkoi demonstrated Te Tiriti is a living document.
“Everyone has to participate in upholding the mana of this document ... [and] holding the Crown to this document.”