19 Jan 2024

Waikato Tainui well prepared and ready to host thousands

11:42 am on 19 January 2024

By Taiha Molyneux, Māori News Editor

Former Minister of Māori Affairs Koro Wētere was buried today at a family urupā near Te Kuiti. His body has been lying in state at Tūrangawaewae Marae since Saturday, when he died, a day after his 83rd birthday. His tūpāpaku will be taken to Ōparure Marae before being buried at a whānau urupā.

File photo: Final preparations are underway for Waikato Tainui as they get ready to host the masses at Tūrangawaewae Marae tomorrow. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The first of a series of national Hui A Iwi will begin tomorrow morning at Tūrangawaewae Marae where thousands are expected to gather.

Final preparations are underway for Waikato Tainui as they get ready to host the masses and Kiingitanga chief of staff Ngira Simmonds said Ngāruawāhia was buzzing with activity.

"It's quite logistical magic to pull this off, and there are several marae involved in not only the hui itself, but the night before.

"Seven of our marae will be hosting some of the iwi that will be coming from a long distance, so it's a big undertaking."

The hui will be convened by Kiingi Tuuheitia and the national invite was extended in December last year.

Iwi leaders across the country prompted the call after highlighting a need for Māori to unite in response to coalition government policy.

"This hui will probably be a touch point and a reference for Māori for many many years to come, we will all be able to say that at this time in this place we all agreed to this, and what we all know is there is power in kotahitanga," said Simmonds.

Ngāti Kahungunu are one of the iwi attending and its chair Bayden Barber said it will be a valuable opportunity to prepare Māori for what lies ahead.

"Really, it's about looking forward as iwi as hapū and marae acknowledging that it's going to be a challenging three years for many Māori and strategising and planning ... how we come together around some of these kaupapa because they are big kaupapa for iwi hapū and marae and whānau."

Bayden Barber

Ngāti Kahungunu chair Bayden Barber. Photo: RNZ / Kate Green

Ngāti Kuri executive director Sheridan Waitai said the coalition government should take learnings from iwi to better understand what true collaboration looks like.

"How disappointing is it for us that, you know, there's just been so many individual agendas and it's about a popularity contest, people go with the people they like, not with what is right," she said.

Rangatahi would play a pivotal role in supporting future focussed initiatives with a forum dedicated to giving them a voice - a priority set by Kiingi Tuuheitia, forum facilitator Piripi Winiata said.

"There is a set of Mātāpono guiding the hui that have been set out by our King, one of those is about being future focussed.

"Kiingi Tuuheitia is really passionate about rangatahi. Hearing their voice and creating a space where they are able to engage and ensure their voices will be heard and be a part of what comes out of the event are really important."

ACT and New Zealand First will not be attending the hui and earlier this week New Zealand First deputy leader Shane Jones said the coalition government had the mandate of NZ voters and people needed to show respect and let them get on with it.

"It's not just about the government's voter base, you're kind of prodding, we call it 'kei te uru taniwha rātou', you know, they are prodding the taniwha, that taniwha is the Māori people and you don't want to wake that taniwha up," said Bayden Barber.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister Chris Luxon has confirmed he would not be attending the hui, saying it was not a political event.

He met with Kiingi Tuuheitia at Ngāruawāhia earlier this week. Instead, Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka and National's Dan Bidois will be attending instead of Luxon.

'We have pro-Māori solutions' - Te Pati Māori

Te Pati Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer told Morning Report the hui was an opportunity for Māori to speak up and be represented.

A lot of the policies put forward by the coalition government were "almost denying the role of tangata whenua, our whakapapa, our role as katiaki", she said.

All six of the Te Pati Māori caucus will be attending the hui and Ngarewa-Packer said that it was important for them to listen, learn, connect and "to give confidence that even though we have what's seen as a very anti-Māori government, we have pro-Māori solutions".

"I really love the fact that this is ... a progressive way to bring about kaupapa from people who often don't participate in politics and the legislation," she said.

Ngarewa-Packer said she did not believe "extremist" views against Māori were what New Zealanders in general supported.

This will be the first of a series of wānanga and the mauri of this hui will be passed on to Ratana and Waitangi in the coming weeks.

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