5 Dec 2023

Protest action a stand against government insults to Māori - Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer

8:24 am on 5 December 2023
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is defending protest action just days into a new government taking office.

Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is defending protest action just days into a new government taking office.

Demonstrations are underway around the country today, against what Te Pāti Māori says is an assault on tangata whenua and Te Tiriti o Waitangi, by the new coalition government.

The Nationwide Action Day aligns with the opening of the 54th term of Parliament, where all MPs are required to swear an oath of allegiance.

Ngarewa-Packer admitted she was reluctant to attach herself to King Charles when all MPs were sworn in later today.

She said her party will mark the oath their own way and media would have to "wait and see" if members took the oath although they did so in 2020.

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Ngarewa-Packer said the protests were a sign of what's to come over the next three years.

The real intention was for communities to show up for each other and unite, she told Morning Report.

She said the protest action was necessary as part of Māori's strong culture of standing up for injustice.

The government's focus should be on resolving the inequities facing Māori, based on solutions advanced by tangata whenua. Instead it was intent on "disbanding, disestablishing and showing a true disconnect with tangata whenua across the motu".

Ngarewa-Packer said it was not too early to show opposition because her party had had three years of listening to their policies on the Opposition benches.

"We have a government that has insulted and upset at least 20 percent of the population..."


Protest action on Aurora Terrace in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

New Zealand First and ACT had never tried to reach out and engage with Māori, she said.

She accused the parties now in government of perpetuating "racist carry-on" while they were in opposition and nothing had changed.

"Sadly, the Prime Minister and his government have exactly confirmed our worst fears. We have to kick back and push back."

Ngarewa-Packer was asked about a social media post showing two guns crossing each other. She replied this would have been the work of one of the social media influencers who were promoting the protest action.

It was a reminder of the colonised history of Aotearoa.

"They [the social media posts] are all reflections of artists saying what they think of our history."

She was expecting hundreds of people at protest centres such as Whanganui, Porirua and Palmerston North.

"Every area is standing up in its own way."

She did not expect the protest action to be as disruptive or as disrespectful as the rallies undertaken by Groundswell.

Government accused of marginalising Māori

Protest in Whangarei

Some of the protesters in Whangārei. Photo: RNZ / Peter de Graaf

Māori health campaigner Lady Tureiti Moxon says the new government is taking the country back 100 years to the days of colonisation.

She told Morning Report the new government doesn't have the support of the people who many of its policies target.

Lady Tureiti who is taking part in the action in Hamilton said Māori were feeling under attack "every which way but loose", because a lot of the policies were anti-Māori.

She was surprised by the number of policies directed at Māori in the coalition agreement and believed they would take the country back 100 years.

"And what we're saying is no, we've worked too hard on race relations in our organisations and this country to bring about a bit better partnership in terms of Te Tiriti with the government and with all those partners that we now have very good relationships with.

"And yet here we are with this sweeping suite of policies and they are archaic."

She believed the government had decided to take back all the power and control for themselves in the face of iwi efforts to have "a partnership that actually had meaning".

"It includes Māori in decision-making and in co-governance ... and just at the swipe of a pen they [the government] decide, nah, we're not having that any more."

They had not considered the consequences with no guarantee of tino rangatiratanga as laid down in the Treaty of Waitangi, she said.

The Waitangi Tribunal had been around for 50 years and had been the main body in developing Treaty principles and jurisprudence yet the government was now trying to ignore it.

A lot of people did not know much about the Treaty and would like it to become "invisible". Now they had a government that seemed to share this goal, Lady Tureiti said.

"Well, it's not invisible, it's the founding document of this country."

She accused the government of marginalising Māori.

Police on alert around the country

Police are warning commuters in Auckland and Wellington in particular to expect significant delays this morning because of the National Māori Action Day protests.

In what the party is describing as a "first hitout" objecting to policies introduced by the new coalition government - protesters are expected to gather at multiple locations across the North Island Te Ika-a-Māui by 7am.

New Zealand police assistant commissioner Sandra Venables said with multiple protests across several venues across the country police are being deployed "to react and control any behaviour".

She said, while police supported lawful protest, officers would be acting on anything that stepped outside the boundaries, such as endangering the public.

No special precautions were being taken in the grounds of Parliament.

Police had established "good liaison" with protest organisers beforehand and had made their own expectations clear on behaviour.