More than a thousand protestors gathered in Tauranga this morning as part of Te Pāti Māori calls for nationwide action in response to the Government’s “assault on tangata whenua and Te Tiriti o Waitangi”.
Iwi members and supporters met at Whareroa Reserve and made their way to Hewletts Rd on State Highway 2, a major commuter and freight route in Tauranga.
The protest was peaceful and did not disrupt the traffic too much.
Protestors chanted and waved banners and flags as a heavy police presence looked on.
A haka was performed on the corner of Taiaho Pl and Hewletts Rd and traffic was reduced to one lane in the area as people moved peacefully back to Whareroa Reserve.
The hīkoi started at 7.30am.
Earlier, Te Runanga o Ngai Te Rangi Iwi Trust deputy chief executive Roimata Ah Sam told the crowd they would march in formation on the bus lane and the footpath if needed.
“No one is getting arrested. We will stand proud ... we will be disciplined. There is an art to a protest.”
Whare Hika, who is carrying a Māori flag, said it was important he was here today because in his view the Government was trying to marginalise the Māori language, tikanga and values.
Kaya Waiariki, who is matching with her tamariki, said she felt it was important to do so for the future generations.
Sue Elliot, who is an iwi partnership board member, said the Government was taking away the public health initiatives.
“They are eating away at our equity.”
Motorists are tooting and waving and one man yelled from his window “too much, bro” as the crowd walked towards a nearby Bunnings Warehouse, where the hokoi will officially start.
Last month, National agreed to support Act’s policy for a binding public referendum on defining the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi through its first stage.
The commitment does not ensure there will be a referendum, as National and NZ First have not pledged any support beyond the committee stage, but does ensure there will be a national conversation about the issue.
Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley told the Bay of Plenty Times on Monday that the protest would join “Māori organisations in a mana battle”.
“We are protecting the mana of our language and the mana of our culture” in a “mana battle”.
Stanley said the iwi was exercising “our democratic right to show our dissatisfaction and disdain of what the Government is doing at the present moment via a protest.
“All of our protests have been peaceful and non-eventful but they have got the message through.
“We are protecting the mana of our language and the mana of our culture. It is one of those things you cannot lose … it’s one of those things that is so important.”
Ngāi Te Rangi had spoken to Te Pāti Māori but Stanley said its protest was “our own gig”.
“This is just one of the things we can do as an iwi and just one thing we can collectively do as a people to object to the tenet this Government has taken.”
‘Revolution of Gen-T’
In a social media post, Te Pāti Māori said it would be demonstrating the might of tangata whenua and tangata Tiriti working together.
“The revolution of Gen-T [Generation Tiriti] standing up for and protecting the rights of all of our mokopuna.
“Asserting the mana of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as enduring and everlasting.”
Protestors are gathering nationwide including in Auckland where police and NZTA were working together to prepare for possible disruption across Auckland’s motorway network.
“In alignment with the opening of the 54th term of Parliament, we, Te Pāti Māori, are making a nationwide call to get our people beating the streets with their feet and their voices,” the Te Pāti Māori spokesperson told teaonews.co.nz on Sunday.
This will be “just the start” of a series of protest actions over the next three years, they said.
“This national protest is in direct response to the Government changes that seek to rapidly dismantle three generations worth of work under an agenda that blatantly disregards the place of Māori in Aotearoa and looks to marginalise us as tangata whenua,” a copy of the pānui supplied to teaonews.co.nz on Sunday says.
Asked about the protests at the post-Cabinet press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Christoper Luxon said the coalition Government was “deeply committed” to improving outcomes for Māori and non-Māori.
Luxon said he did not actually know what the protests on Tuesday were about.
He said for the past six years under the Labour Government, “outcomes have not been good for Māori”.
“We’ve seen economically Māori have been really challenged by a cost-of-living crisis that’s got out of control. We’ve seen Māori in terms of participation in welfare, on social state house wait lists, education, healthcare, all of those things have gone backwards.
“We are going to be a Government that’s going to deliver for Māori, period. That is a big focus of ours.”
“It is unacceptable to me that we’ve actually got … 30 per cent more Māori on welfare. We’ve got 50 per cent of Māori kids now not going to school regularly. We’ve got 50 per cent of the social house wait list are Māori.”
Luxon said everyone had the right to protest but encouraged participants to be lawful, peaceful and respectful.
Police Assistant Commissioner Sandra Venables said in a statement police would put “measures in place to prevent protesters putting themselves and motorists in harm’s way” in some locations.
“Te Pati Māori protest action is scheduled to take place between 7.30am and 9am and is likely to disrupt traffic in a number of areas.”
These included Rotorua, Tauranga and Tokoroa as well as Auckland, Wellington and beyond.
Motorists were advised to plan ahead.
Venables said police were giving protest organisers advice on lawful protesting, and health and safety implications.
Police would be “highly visible” and any unlawful behavior would result in enforcement action at the time or afterwards, she said.
Labour MP responds to protest
Labour MP Peeni Henare said it did not surprise him that Māori were moving to protest against what he said “seems to be an aggressive Māori agenda” from the Government.
However, he said he did not agree with some of the rhetoric being used by some, including Te Pāti Māori, saying it “incites anarchy”.
“Te Pāti Māori yesterday shared a screenshot of another user’s post on Instagram which described the Government parties as “white supremacists” .
“The post first referred to the back down on the smoking reforms and said “well done to those who voted in the white supremacists and their Robert Muldoon thinking”.
Te Pāti Māori has previously described the Government’s repeal of the smokefree reforms as amounting to “genocide”.
Henare said he did not agree the Government were white supremacists and disagreed with such rhetoric.
“I don’t agree with that rhetoric. That kind of language I think just incites anarchy.
“We’ve got a job here to represent the views of our whānau and our communities and I’ve always been clear when I’ve spoken to them that the best way to do that is here in [Parliament} with meaningful debate and a strong push against this Government.”
He said Māori needed to be clear about exactly what they were fighting against.
“Our whānau are ready. We’ve been up for this fight for decades, so it doesn’t surprise me. The only thing I would ask for our whānau is we continue to remember and care for each other and to be clear about what we are standing up against.
“At the moment, the new Government has made their agenda but with very little detail. So it’s important we know what it is.”
Last week Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi told Te Ao News the Government wanted to “remove all trace of us as Māori”.
“Our language, our place as tangata whenua, our efforts to improve Māori health and include cultural considerations within Oranga Tamariki. It also wants to wipe out what our ancestors envisaged through the Treaty of Waitangi,” he told the outlet.
Waititi likened the policies to being “consumed by an evil monster” – “He taniwha kikino kei te kai i a tātou”.
In a Herald column last week former politician and broadcaster Tukoroirangi Morgan said in just over a month the new coalition Government had rendered Māori an almost nullity.
“The last time that occurred was in 1877 when the then Chief Justice James Prendergast proclaimed the Treaty was ‘worthless’ because it had been signed ‘between a civilised nation and a group of savages’ who were incapable of signing a treaty,” he wrote.