5 Feb 2024

Waitangi Day 2024: Government denies it's 'delegitimising' Māori, blames previous government

8:31 pm on 5 February 2024

Government leaders have rejected allegations they are degrading tino rangatiratanga, saying the proposed Treaty Principles Bill won't "delegitimise" Māori.

The criticism was levelled by protesters at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on Monday.

The leaders of National, ACT and NZ First faced a confronting reception, with the crowd booing Winston Peters and drowning out David Seymour.

But Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says there was "genuinely a sense of unity" and asked people to look beyond the "drama" of the protests and find common ground.

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Ahead of the government's arrival at the treaty grounds, veteran activist Tāme Iti led a hīkoi to the meeting house. The crowd carried white flags and chanted "honour Te Tiriti".

A group is now performing a haka in support of Shane Jones.

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

A pōwhiri followed, with the biggest challenge reserved for Seymour, the leader of the ACT party and main proponent of the Treaty Principles Bill.

Christopher Luxon accepts the wero (challenge) at Waitangi Treaty Grounds 5 February 2024

Christopher Luxon accepts the wero at Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

He faced a kāhui (group) of kaiwero, while Peters and Prime Minister Christopher Luxon were each challenged by one kaiwero.

Seymour then had his speech drowned out with a waiata before a protester walked onto the ātea and was stopped by security.

Seymour called for his opponents to "start talking about ideas and stop attacking people".

Several Waiwero (warriors) issued a challenge (wero) to David Seymour at  Waitangi 5 February 2024

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

'Get some manners'

Peters was booed during his speech but quickly fired back.

"You tell me whoever said we're getting rid of the Treaty of Waitangi. Stop the crap," he said.

"Get some manners … get an education."

New Zealand First leader Winston speaks during the formal welcome for the government at Waitangi on Monday 5 February 2024.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Among the protesters was Eru Kingi-Kapa, who told RNZ the government's kōrero was degrading to the tino rangatiratanga of te ao Māori.

Seymour knocked back the allegations, saying ACT had a "long history" of allowing people to self-determine.

"We believe in tino rangatiratanga, perhaps more so than anyone."

The coalition was devolving decision-making power to Māori, and it was the previous government that "centralised everything", such as Te Pūkenga, taking power away from Māori, he said.

Seymour described the pōwhiri as "pretty fiery", but said "I give as good as I get".

Shane Jones - flanked by Winston Peters and David Seymour - listens during whaikōrero at Waitangi 5 February 2024

New Zealand First's Winston Peters, Shane Jones and ACT's David Seymour. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

'Opening up a debate'

NZ First MP Shane Jones also rejected the allegations the government and the Treaty Principles Bill were degrading tino rangatiratanga.

"I don't believe anything our government is doing is delegitimising a personal choice many people make to be Māori," he said.

"If you choose to accentuate that part of your whakapapa, [you're] entitled to do that."

Jones said the government was funding wānanga and marae throughout the country: "None of that delegitimises Māori."

However, the government was "opening up a debate" on the principles of the Treaty and how they were applied in New Zealand's increasingly multicultural society, he said.

"We need to ensure, as this debate goes forward, we have a long-term view to the best interests of all Kiwis."

Jones said he would take an active role in that debate.

He said some of the protesters were "unnecessarily rude", but he understood where they were coming from.

"Young people… I was young once. Out in the hot sun, you can get carried away."

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon speaks to the crowd at Waitangi on 5 February.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

National won't support Treaty Principles Bill

Luxon used his speech to reflect on Aotearoa's history, before talking about his vision for Aotearoa in 2040.

The promises of the Treaty were not upheld, he said.

"Every nation's past isn't perfect. But no other country has attempted to right its wrongs."

Speaking to media, he said National had "no intention, no commitment" to support ACT's Treaty Principles Bill beyond the first reading.

There would also be no referendum on the Treaty of Waitangi, he said.

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