Waikato protesters gathered today in protest against Government policy with huge numbers showing up in support.
One at one of several protest sites in Hamilton said they were “here standing in defence of Te Tiriti o Waitangi”.
Police said about 50 cars travelled from the Hampton Downs/Ohinewai area and stopped on the Waikato Expressway.
“Although the vehicles were only stopped for a short time, this did have a significant impact on traffic on the Expressway, causing backlogs of 2km to 3km.”
Police estimated there were around 200 protesters across Hamilton, and they largely kept off the road.
Minister for Māori Development and Hamilton West MP Tama Potaka told reporters he respectfully disagreed with sentiment his Government was anti-Māori.
He said what he saw today was a very peaceful protest.
Meanwhile, Waka Kotahi thanked road users for heeding advice to plan their journey and travel outside of peak times.
The most significant impact was experienced on State Highway 1 on the Waikato Expressway where protest action stopped traffic in both directions at Rangiriri for around 20 minutes earlier this morning.
Protesters blocked the expressway brandishing signs reading “Hands off my mokopuna”.
Videos and photos posted to social media by Waikato MP Hana Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke show a car barricade has stalled the highway while protesters and their signs stand on the hills alongside.
The Waikato Expressway at Rangiriri has now reopened after being fully closed for 20 minutes due to the protests this morning.
Meanwhile at Five Crossroads, Hamilton, protester Zena West said: “We are here to support the kaupapa, and Māori language has been around a lot longer than the people who are making these decisions”.
Another protester Chris Fransham said the Government had not been honouring the Treaty of Waitangi for 183 years and he thought the new Government was “taking us backwards rather than forwards”.
“Their attacks on te reo Māori, and the smokefree legislation will vastly impact Māori more than Pakeha. As a Pakeha myself I think it is important for Pakeha to be out here supporting tangata whenua in this kaupapa.”
Horiana Henderson said she was a “mother of three Māori boys”.
“Our tupuna (ancestors) protected our Tino rangatiratanga and our rights under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We can’t let it just disappear because three people in Parliament got together and are going to make moves. Parliament is sitting today and the people are here standing in defence of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”
Authorities had warned Te Pati Māori protest action today was likely to disrupt traffic in a number of areas, including the following:
- Hampton Downs: 20 Hampton Downs Rd. 7am.
- Rangiriri: 10 Talbot St. 6am.
- Ohinewai: Ohinewai Hall, 1 Lilley Ln. 7am.
- Matamata: Matamata Baptist Church car park. 6.30am.
- Hamilton: Te Ara Hou Village, 100 Morrinsville Rd.
- Te Kohao Health, 951 Wairere Dr.
- The Base, Te Rapa Rd.
- Braemar Hospital intersection, Ohaupo Rd.
- Killarney and Kahikatea Rds
- Five Cross Rds roundabout, Enderly.
- The Wayward Pigeon, 2 Gordonton Rd, Chartwell.
- Founders Theatre, King St and Norton Rd.
Lady Tureiti Moxon told RNZ people would be gathered at nine different Hamilton sites by 7.30am.
She said people were going past beeping their horns.
Police said they were working with organisers to provide advice on lawful protest, as well as any health and safety implications.
Officers would be highly visible across the roading network and, in some locations, would put measures in place to prevent protesters putting themselves and motorists in harm’s way.
Police said unlawful behaviour would result in enforcement action, either at the time or following the event if safety issues prevented immediate action.
A pop-up protest in Taupō this morning attracted about 50 people.
Meriana Taputu said she put the call out yesterday for anyone to join the protest on Lake Terrace this morning.
”I have grandchildren now. It may be a cliche, but I am standing for them and for the first time in my life I’ve taken social action,”
She said the protest was “only the beginning” and Aotearoa had an opportunity to embrace te Tiriti.
”We’re a multicultural society. It’s about sharing who we are and the love of who we are.”
Taupō resident Ata Simmonds and her son were standing in in front of their Waitahanui iwi pou in the Taupō town centre. She said today was about “Māori banding together”.
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Motorists in these areas were advised to plan ahead to mitigate any disruption to their travel.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency said police were leading the operational planning and response to the protest activity, which had the potential to cause significant congestion, disruption and delays on key highways and arterial routes in Auckland, Waikato, Tauranga and Wellington.
Meanwhile, 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 listen to the Māori people rather than making decisions about them.
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.
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