NZ First leader Winston Peters is warning of a “conniving, cultural cabal” using Māori to “further their own agenda”, as he proposes stripping government departments of te reo names, mandatory prison sentences for people who assault first responders and more funding for frontline agencies.
Peters also claims the Government is “furiously trying to put co-governance on the backburner”, but believes Labour and National MPs still believe in the plan as a central aspect of the Government’s Three Waters legislation, which is currently being reviewed amid Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ refocusing on the cost of living crisis.
The party leader gave his State of Nation address in the Auckland suburb of Howick this afternoon, urging those in the audience to “take our country back” while referencing national issues including the cost of living, education, health, crime, climate change and division racial division.
Peters’ speech contained several policies, including renaming Te Whatu Ora (Health New Zealand) and changing all “every government department back to English”.
“This is not an attack on the Māori language – it is an attack on the elite virtue signalers who have hijacked the language for their own socialist means. This conceited, conniving, cultural cabal doesn’t represent hard-working ordinary Māori - they only seek to use Māori to further their own agenda,” he said.
Decrying the current level of crime, Peters promised that, if he is elected, anyone who assaulted a police officer, paramedic, firefighter or Corrections officer while on duty would receive a mandatory six-month prison sentence.
Being part of a gang would also be an “automatic aggravating factor” in sentencing, Peters said.
That added to Peters’ commitment to ban gang patches in public, which he announced late last year after National had announced it would do the same.
Peters said his party would also further fund St John, Plunket, Mike King’s Gumboot Friday charity, rescue helicopters, surf lifesaving and Pharmac - but did send a message to the latter.
“We will ensure Pharmac has more funds to get the medication to the people that need it most – but the first thing we are going to do is sort Pharmac out – they will concentrate on performance not puffery.”
Peters said it was also “alarming news” that New Zealand’s GDP in the last measured quarter declined by 0.6 per cent.
“That means our economy is not growing, but shrinking,” he said.
The veteran politician said, he could not recall a time when things are “failing everywhere, all at once.”
“And people know things aren’t working,” he said. “So it’s time to contemplate how exactly we got into this predicament and what we all need to do about it. New Zealand’s perilous economic state just didn’t happen overnight.”
He said the “real crunch is coming for you the workers”, middle-income earners, and the seniors with little disposable income. Peters said NZ First would not change the superannuation age.
Peters also denounced an “awful tribalism” to New Zealand’s politics which was “ignoring realities” and “replacing them with politically extremist ideologies”.
“Where political party comes first, and our country, second.
“In the living memory of people here, there have been successful Labour and National governments, re-elected, election after election, because those leaders put the people first and not their obsession with political power. And that is something we must do again.”
He argued this year’s general election needed to be about Kiwis.
“Whatever our backgrounds, whatever our race, religion, or creed – for if we do not work together, if we continue these numerous divisions, then we will be doomed to repeat the failures of the last few years.”
On the hot topic of education, Peters said New Zealand was once a world leader but now sees literacy and numeracy rates continue to decline in core subjects.
“We stopped focusing on reading, writing and arithmetic, and now teach a range of sociological values to the alarm of so many parents,” he said.
“Parents who know that achievement at the start of a child’s life in reading and maths is essential for fulfillment in their later life – academic success, upward mobility, economic success, and participation in society.”
A similar story, Peters said, faced the country’s public healthcare system.
“We were once a proud world leader. But cracks are now emerging everywhere.”