Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the hikoi was a message to Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and his Government that they needed to actually listen to Māori people rather than making decisions about them.
Luxon meanwhile hit back saying he thought the protests were “unfair” given the Government had only been in the job for a week and was dedicated to improving outcomes for Māori.
Asked about Luxon’s comments that what mattered to Māori was issues that impacted on their daily lives, such as the cost of living, health and education, Ngarewa-Packer said Luxon needed to listen to Māori more.
“How do you go off and form a coalition based on the fact that you think you know what Māori want – and [today] they come out in their thousands and tell you ‘you’ve got it so wrong’.
“What he should be doing is asking Māori what matters. Because he has refused and hasn’t done that well in the last three years and in making his decisions as a government, those with whakapapa and those who support those with whakapapa are telling him.”
She said one of the purposes of this morning’s hikoi was to unite and send a message at the start of a government which had a range of plans that would impact on Māori.
The MPs will be sworn in this morning, taking an oath that requires them to swear allegiance to King Charles III. Ngarewa-Packer said the Te Pāti Māori MPs would say the oath, because they owed it to their people to be sworn in and represent them.
“Our people put us here to be MPs and as revolting as I find it to mihi to a Crown that was so treacherous and murderous to our people, colonisation isn’t something that should be celebrated – but we will do what we have to do for our people.”
However, there was also a plan afoot to take a stand on the issue as well. Te Pāti Māori MPs are expected to swear their own oath to Te Tiriti before taking the required oath.
“We’ve always shown – when we were refused taonga, when we weren’t allowed to assert our own tikanga – that everything’s up for a challenge. It’s got to be.
“I think our people expect that. We couldn’t change the oath but we’ve used our influence in this place to do what’s important and this [hikoi] gives us inspiration to making sure we stick to that plan.”
She said this morning’s hikoi around the country were predominantly to hold the line on the Treaty of Waitangi and the numbers who turned out should have sent a message to the Government.
“Everything we have fought for comes under Te Tiriti. The point is protecting our rights and interests as tangata whenua. Everything else, whether it be hauora, the Māori Health Authority, the reo, the justice system, they are all part and parcel of Te Tiriti.
“What we have is a Government that has allowed the review and re-writing of a critical part of how tangata Tiriti got here.
“I think the point made was, first of all, this was a karanga to ourselves about ourselves, and being able to mobilise and come together in our various pockets of community.
“What this says to ourselves is that we do stand in solidarity. What it says to the Government is ‘heed and watch how you are treating kaupapa Māori and our people’.”
Luxon said he thought the criticism of the new Government from Māori was “pretty unfair” given they had only been in the job got a week.
“Māori have done poorly under the last Labour government over the last six years.
“We are determined to make sure that Māori can do better under our Government than the last six years.”
Luxon said they had “constructive” meetings with iwi leaders.
On Cabinet Minister Shane Jones calling Ngarewa-Packer a “demented native parrot”, Luxon said the language was “not appropriate”.
Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka said he supported the rights of people to protest.
“What I saw was a very peaceful protest.
“And the messages eloquently articulated by Rawiri Waititi, John Tamihere and others are really some of the concerns we have, particularly with education, health, and housing, things that have been wreaked havoc by previous Labour governments, some of the deplorable statistics that affect Māori and many other communities.”
Potaka said he “respectfully” disagreed with comments his would be the “most racist government in decades” and terms like “genocide” to describe British colonialism.
“I think that there’s real deep concern and sentiment amongst those communities, most of those people that use that sort of language, that type of imagery is not one that I subscribe to.”
Potaka said National was committed to more “decentralisation, devolution, working with community, Māori, you and other leaders”.
On some of the coalitions more radical policies such as supporting a referendum on the Treaty of Waitangi principles to select committee, Potaka said they had “robust debates” but refused to answer the question he he had raised specific concerns about coalition agreements.
Luxon said he expected to attend Waitangi next year for Waitangi Day, but had not yet made final decisions.