The article describes a significant gathering of Māori leaders and their families at Tūrangawaewae, the seat of the Māori King, to protest against New Zealand government policies that are perceived to threaten decades of progress in Māori rights and well-being. The coalition government, led by National’s Christopher Luxon, has announced plans to repeal or review several policies supporting Māori, including those aimed at improving Māori health outcomes, addressing racial disparities, and promoting the use of the Māori language in the public service.
The government argues that services should be provided based on need rather than race, and Prime Minister Luxon emphasizes the intention to deliver outcomes for everybody. However, these policy changes have sparked widespread opposition and concerns among the Māori community.
The gathering at Tūrangawaewae attracted far more attendees than initially expected, with 10,000 people joining to express solidarity against what they perceive as a threat to Māori rights. The Māori leaders came together to discuss their concerns, positions, and potential actions in response to the government’s policy direction.
The government’s openness to reviewing the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi, which upholds Māori rights, has generated particular alarm. Critics view this as a potential modern-day confiscation of treaty rights and part of an overall anti-Māori policy direction.
The article highlights the strong sentiment among the Māori community against the proposed changes, with many seeing the government’s direction as reinforcing colonial ideologies. The gathering at Tūrangawaewae is seen as a significant moment for iwi (tribes) from across the country to unite and find a way forward together in the face of perceived threats to Māori rights and well-being.
The Māori King, Kiingi Tuheitia, delivered a speech emphasizing the importance of understanding the Treaty through reo (language) and tikanga (customs) and called for its entrenchment in constitutional law. Some iwi signaled their intent to secede from the Crown if their concerns are not addressed, while others advocated for being Māori and living their values as a form of protest. The gathering is expected to set the tone for future discussions over the relationship with the Crown and the government’s direction.
The gathering at Tūrangawaewae reflects a widespread sentiment of concern and resistance within the community against what they perceive as a rollback of policies that safeguard rights and well-being. The government’s stance on providing services based on need rather than race, coupled with the proposed review of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, has intensified tensions between the Māori community and the current administration.
The leaked draft memo detailing proposed changes to the Treaty principles has further heightened apprehensions, with some accusing the government of promoting “white supremacist” views. Indigenous rights lawyer Dayle Takitimu warned against what she described as a “treaty-illiterate” government, expressing concerns about the potential erosion of sacred and foundational aspects of the treaty arrangement with the Crown.
While Prime Minister Luxon did not attend the gathering, his absence did not diminish the gravity of the issues discussed. Māori leaders, including Kiingi Tuheitia, conveyed a strong message of unity and determination to protect rights. The call, to live their values, speak their reo, and care for their cultural and natural heritage was presented as a form of protest and resilience in the face of perceived threats.
The gathering at Tūrangawaewae serves as a significant moment in New Zealand’s political landscape, with the community actively asserting their identity and rights. The outcomes of this mobilization are likely to influence future discussions, including those leading up to Rātana and Waitangi Day, and will play a role in shaping the Māori-Crown relationship.
As the government faces heightened criticism and calls for a reconsideration of its policies, the events at Tūrangawaewae underscore the importance of engaging in meaningful dialogue and addressing the concerns of the community to foster a more inclusive and equitable future for all New Zealanders.