5 Dec 2023

Government plans are a challenge to Treaty's existence - Rawiri Waititi

10:25 am on 5 December 2023
National Māori Action Day: Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi at the protest in Wellington, 5 December 2023.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi at the protest in Wellington, 5 December 2023. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The government's policies fly in the face of what Te Tiriti o Waitangi represents for the nation, Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi says.

Waititi, speaking to Morning Report from the forecourt of Parliament, said today's protests have been about protecting the rights of Māori under te Tiriti.

He took part in a gathering of more than 600 people who began the day protesting at a motorway overbridge, before walking to Parliament.

Many have now dispersed.

Thousands of people also gathered at other centres around the North Island to voice their opposition to the policies announced as part of the coalition agreement.

Waititi said the protest was to activate Māori, and ensure tangata whenua stood as one to protect the Treaty of Waitangi.

There was no guarantee there would not be a referendum on the Treaty while the current government was in power. It was under threat with ACT's bill on Treaty principles.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi announced to the crowd it should march on Parliament.

Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

Protesters were also concerned at the downgrading of te reo across government agencies.

"All of those types of things challenge the very reason that te Tiriti was signed and that's to make sure we can live here prosperous together and ensure unity is at the forefront of everything we do."

He reacted to comments by the Minister for Māori Development Tama Potaka that the government was not "anti-Māori'", saying it was rolling back agencies like the Māori Health Authority.

They also wanted to get rid of iwi involvement in the outcome for youngsters who come to the attention of Oranga Tamariki, via the repeal of section 7AA of the legislation.

"I would challenge Tama on that and I will continue to challenge Tama."

He said National's support of ACT's bill on Treaty principles made it clear what values Potaka's party represented.

Waititi said the party will pledge allegiance to King Charles at the opening of Parliament "in our style".

"We are going to do something really quite different today to ensure that we uphold the very mana we have been put into the House to do."

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