19 Jan 2024

Luxon defends decision not to attend nationwide hui

8:04 am on 19 January 2024
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon speaks to media in Sydney

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says he's met with many iwi leaders privately since being elected. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon is defending his decision not to attend Saturday's nationwide hui, saying it isn't a political event.

The open-invitation hui was called by Kiingi Tuuheitia over fears of the coalition government's plans for Māori.

At his party's first caucus meeting of the year in Christchurch, Luxon confirmed he will be a no-show.

"It's not actually a political event, per se, it's actually not for politicians, we are not front and center in those conversations.

"It's an opportunity for Māoridom to come together. I'm very supportive of it, I think it's a good idea to be able to think about where is Māori going out to 2040 and beyond.

"I caught up with the Māori King earlier in the week, and I'll catch up again, with him and other iwi leaders over the course of Waitangi."

Luxon insists he isn't missing the hui because he's worried about the reception he may receive.

"No, no...I've had a chance to have a really good engagement with the Māori King, which I did earlier in the week, I've had a chance to engage with several iwi leaders...since becoming Prime Minister, you know, I've met with many physically, privately, I've had conversations and phone calls with many as well.

"I will continue to do that. That's how I've always operated. That's what I'll continue to do," Luxon said.

Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka and National's Dan Bidois will be attending instead of Luxon and they'll likely be the only representatives of the coalition government, with ACT and New Zealand First choosing not to go.

Potaka said it was his intention to listen.

"We may be asked to speak along the way, okay, ka pai, but I'm sure that people attending the hui are more interested in what the rangatira and tangata who are attending the hui have to say rather than ourselves."

Asked if he was prepared to defend the coalition government's policies for Māori at the hui, Potaka said "it was like the weather".

"Good weather, bad weather. It's just weather.

"The issues that come and go on the day, many of those issues have been held over the last 50, 60, 160 years. Whether or not that's land loss, or the health and wellbeing of our people, or identity, or the Treaty of Waitangi ... those issues have been very live and continue to be live to this day."

Labour's Māori MPs, more than half the Green caucus, and all six of Te Pati Māori's MPs are expected to be among the thousands who gather at Tūrangawaewae Marae on Saturday.

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