7 Feb 2024

Treaty referendum among issues raised with government at Waitangi

9:31 am on 7 February 2024
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon speaking at the Waitangi dawn service on 6 February, 2024.

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon is standing by the speech he gave at Waitangi, saying he was repetitive on purpose.

Tens of thousands of people were in Waitangi on Tuesday with a strong message of Toitū Te Tiriti.

Luxon was criticised for re-using part of the script from his speech last year.

But he told Morning Report that was deliberate.

"I want repetition and consistency, particularly when there's a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about our support for the Treaty."

National has come under heavy criticism from many Māori for agreeing to support ACT's Treaty Principles Bill through the first reading, despite saying they won't vote for the legislation past that.

Luxon said that was a compromise.

"The message is really clear, the Treaty is sacrosanct, it's our founding document, it's in the constitution of the National party... we're deeply deeply committed to it and it's not changing," he said.

'Bland' and 'not appropriate' speech

Activist and former MP Hone Harawira told Morning Report Luxon's speech was "very bland".

"It was speech that could have been written for any prime minister for any government over past 50 years."

However, Harawira said there was not much Luxon could have said.

Former MP Hone Harawira at the Smokefree rally at Parliament on 13 December, 2023.

Former MP Hone Harawira Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Ngāpuhi leader Mere Mangu, who spoke before Luxon and urged calm, said Luxon's prepared speech was not appropriate.

"I was very disappointed that he had a speech that had been written for him that was not appropriate for the occasion and completely didn't hear any of the messaging that had been put across.

"I think he missed a golden opportunity to start the dialogue at least about what we're so concerned about."

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said Luxon's speech was "lazy".

"All he's doing is proving he can read out loud."

People were looking for reassurance and explanation about the government's agenda, Hipkins said.

In defence of the Prime Minister

Finance Minister Nicola Willis earlier told First Up she wasn't surprised Luxon's views about how to reflect on the national day had remained consistent

The Treaty Principles Bill was "certainly was one of the issues that was being debated at Waitangi, but I don't think it was the only issue".

Hīkoi organiser's response

The organiser of the hikoi, Rueben Taipari.

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Organiser of the hīkoi from Cape Reinga to Waitangi, Rueben Taipari, said politicians at Waitangi came with prepared speeches and weren't listening to the people.

"It's not even disappointing, because I could almost write you the speech before they even get there," he told Morning Report. "It was actually quite threatening and undermining how politicians spoke to the people."

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