More than a thousand protestors marched in Rotorua 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 the Energy Events Centre and began a hīkoi up Queens Drive and on to Fenton St and Arawa St, where chants filled the morning air and commuters were forced to stop by traffic management.
The protest ran the length between Ranolf and Tutanekai Sts at one point.
It went past Rotorua MP Todd McClay’s office and made its way back down Fenton St, heading back to its start point.
Te Pāti Māori vice president wahine Fallyn Flavell said today it was an “activation” of Te Iwi Māori and Tangata Tiriti supporters concerning the new Government policies that “don’t serve Māori”.
”They don’t serve the minority of the country, they serve the majority.”
She said it was an “activation, not a protest”.
“We’ve activated a fire in the belly of Māori that we deserve better.”
Rotorua local Taiki Scott was at the protest to “support the kaupapa” and estimated 600 people attended who were supported by passing vehicles.
”I don’t know too much about politics ... on paper, it definitely does seem like a few of the movements that are coming off of National and all the other parties can be against Māori and indigenous people.
He believed it was a “successful” march, didn’t disturb traffic and there were no problems.
”All around, good wairua.”
He said he would be “very interested” to see how the media portrayed the marches around the country.
Huriana Mohi, the mother of 4-year-old Te Awe-Taurikura Preston, stood in front of the crowd waving a flag.
”I think now more than ever it’s important to be present. Everything that is decided in Parliament affects us,” she said.
“Mokopuna decisions” is a phrase numerous attendees said when asked why they were at the hīkoi.
Vanessa Paraki said showing uniformity and unity in coming together showed they were not going to stand for a repeated cycle of oppression.
She said the protesters were not wanting to have the last 70 to 100 years of Māori culture revitalisation be dismissed.
Police will be stationed at the front and back of the protesters, the crowd was told in a briefing.
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.
Protest in Taupō
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.”.
‘Peaceful but powerful protest’
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, who was the Te Pāti Māori Rotorua electorate candidate in this year’s election, told the Rotorua Daily Post on Monday she would be participating in this morning’s protest.
“So much has been achieved over the past 50 years to address the blatant racism endemic within institutions, government agencies and society in general in Aotearoa,” the former Rotorua Lakes councillor said.
“Successive governments have also attempted to give effect to the intent and spirit of Te Tiriti.
“Now in 2023, 17 years before the 200-year anniversary of the signing of Te Tiriti of Waitangi, the Government wants to roll back all progress made, wants once again for Māori to ‘be seen if necessary but not heard’ in the land of their tupuna.”
Raukawa-Tait said the march was a “unified Aotearoa response to the Government’s assault”.
“It will be a peaceful but powerful protest. I suspect the first of many.”
‘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 have gathered 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.