4 Dec 2023

Te Pāti Māori calls for nationwide protest against government's co-governance policies

5:15 pm on 4 December 2023
A Maori pin worn by Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer

Te Pāti Māori has issued a nationwide call to action, scheduled for Tuesday 5 December (file image). Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Motorists are being advised to prepare for disruptions across the country tomorrow as Te Pāti Māori plans protests against the newly-formed government's policies.

Te Pāti Māori is calling on the community to join in taking a stand against what they say is an "assault on tangata whenua".

In a social media post on Monday, Te Pāti Māori issued a nationwide call to action, scheduled for Tuesday, 5 December.

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 to the King of England.

The action comes in response to a raft of co-governance related policies announced last week by the new National-led coalition.

Some of the policies include scrapping Te Aka Whai Ora, the Māori Health Authority, just 16 months after its establishment, and the proposal of a Treaty Principles Bill. The bill promises a comprehensive review of all legislation, aside from the full and final Treaty Settlements Act, with the aim of removing existing references to "principles of the Treaty of Waitangi" from law.

According to Te Pāti Māori social media posts, the kaupapa of the action day is to demonstrate the "beginning of a unified Aotearoa approach to the government's assault on Tangata Whenua and Te Tiriti o Waitangi".

"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 our mokopuna", and "asserting the mana of Te Tiriti O Waitangi as enduring and everlasting".

The tikanga of the Action Day is peaceful, respectful, mokopuna focused, mokopuna friendly, and wairua pai, according to the Te Pāti Māori social media post.

Plans for the day are already emerging with Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Te Rangi Iwi trust, a Tauranga-based iwi, issuing a pānui to whānau on Facebook calling them to take protest action.

"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," the pānui said.

"We have worked too hard to revitalise our reo, educate our people, correct the injustices faced by Māori by offering equitable opportunities to be healthy, housed and employed, keep our people out of jail, whilst working towards ensuring that future generations of Māori do not bear the weight of the same injustices imposed upon us, to have these efforts reversed."

The action will be taking place across the country, starting at 7am Tuesday with more than 16 planned locations posted on Te Pāti Māori social media.

'Our people mobilising for the next three years'

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer told RNZ the protests came together in the space of 72 hours, and communities all over the country had come together.

"There's a collection, it's not just one particular sector. This is a collection of our whānau and that's why we've very much left it for our own communities, inside their own uniqueness to run it and to drive it. That's how Te Pāti Māori rolls."

She said she did not care whether the government got the message or not, because the protests were primarily about Māori showing up for each other, and uniting.

"The movement that we're seeing from Māori will make the foreshore and seabed hīkoi look like something extremely small.

"Because what we have is our people mobilising for the next three years against, and letting them know what they think about governments that are utilising tangata whenua as their reason for politicking, as their reason to hold our growth back, the reason that we shouldn't be thriving."

She said many who were set to be involved in the protests were "pretty seasoned" and had good engagement with local communities, officials, and authorities.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said he did not believe the planned protests were a precedent for the next three years.

"I think we're going to demonstrate to Māori and non-Māori across New Zealand that we are focused on outcomes. I've been trying to be really clear with New Zealanders, this country needs a turnaround."

He claimed the past six years had not been good for Māori.

"I think Māori have done very well, particularly in National-led governments in the past, and they're going to continue to do so. But the way we deal with that, and the way we do that, is we actually focus on the things that are important to Māori. And when you do that, you get back to housing, and health, and education, and law and order, and the economy."

Luxon said he supported everyone's right to protest, as long as it was lawful, peaceful, and respectful.

Police preparing for disruptions across the North Island

In a statement, police assistant commissioner Sandra Venables said they were preparing for the protests, which were likely to cause disruptions to traffic between 7.30am and 9am on motorways across Tāmaki Makaurau, Waikato, Palmerston North, Hawera, New Plymouth, Tokoroa, Whanganui, Porirua, Whangārei, Tauranga, Rotorua, and Wellington.

Police were working with organisers to provide advice on lawful protest, as well as any health and safety implications, Venables said.

"Officers will be highly visible across the roading network throughout the morning and, in some locations, will put measures in place to prevent protesters putting themselves and motorists in harm's way.

"Unlawful behaviour will result in enforcement action, either at the time or following the event if safety issues prevent immediate action."

Motorists in affected areas were advised to plan ahead and anyone travelling to the airport or to any other time-sensitive commitment is advised to allow more time for their journey.

Labour spokesperson says protests 'not a surprise'

Labour Māori development spokesperson Willie Jackson said he understood the anger at the new government.

"I don't know all the details but I hear that there's going to be major protests around the Auckland area, so we'll be watching and it's not a surprise but there's a lot of anger out there at the moment.

"I understand it, I've heard about it for quite some time, I did make some warnings before about the type of response you'd get if a referendum was rolled out - and while they're not rolling out a referendum, you've got attacks on te reo Māori, you've got attacks on the Māori Health Authority, there's question marks about Māori funding going forward, and there's a huge level of frustration."

"At the moment, I say good on them," he said of the protesters.

Te Pāti Māori also plan to pledge an oath of allegiance to mokopuna, rather than the King. Jackson said he did not plan to do the same, but he understood it and there should be a choice offered.

"I think our people should have an option, and I don't have a problem supporting that. I'm thinking more about what we have to do right now in terms of responding to the attacks on us but if people want to make a statement and roll out a strategy there at the swearing-in, good on them."

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