Analysis: This weekend’s hui at Tuurangawaewae Marae will set the tone for an important few weeks in the political calendar, writes 1News reporter Te Aniwa Hurihanganui. 

If Prime Minister Christopher Luxon is still unsure about how Māori are feeling about the direction of his Government, he should have a pretty clear idea after this weekend.

Late last year, the Māori King issued a royal proclamation, urging iwi around the country to travel to Tuurangawaewae Marae in the heart of Waikato for a national hui. 

Its purpose is to unify Māori amid growing concerns at the Government's plan to roll back the use of te reo in the public sector and introduce a Treaty Principles Bill, which seeks to redefine the principles of Te Tiriti. 

Māori have already filed four separate legal challenges over these policies and others. This weekend’s hui will be an opportunity to explore how else they might respond. 

The last time iwi were called on like this was 12 years ago, when the Kiingitanga felt the John Key-led Government’s plan to partially sell state-owned enterprise Mighty River Power threatened Māori water rights. 

At the time, thousands left their tribal territories and flocked to Ngāruawāhia to discuss how they might collectively challenge the sale. By the end of it all, those gathered released a public declaration that Māori owned the water.

A rare occasion

The rarity of such an invitation has not been lost on the iwi of today. 

Many have mobilised in an extraordinary way, gathering in large numbers at their own marae to gather their thoughts and confirm where they stand on different issues, to prepare for Saturday’s meeting. 

Ngāpuhi, the country’s largest iwi, will be represented at the hui by more than 400 people alone. It has organised several buses to leave Kaikohe at 3am on Saturday, to make the four-and-a-half hour journey to the marae. 

From Ngāi Tahu in the South Island to the many tribes of Te Arawa in the central North, and hapū based as far away as Aotea Great Barrier Island, Māori have heeded the King’s call with urgency. 

As many as 5000 people are expected to participate tomorrow. They will include some of the most revered leaders in Māoridom, including Sir Tipene O'Regan, Tā Tīmoti Kāretu, Margaret Mutu, Rikirangi Gage and Ruakere Hond.

Politicians are welcome to attend but are being warned this is not an opportunity for them to take centre stage or deliver cheap digs at their political opponents, as they so often do during their annual visit to Koroneihana. They are being urged instead to take a back seat and listen. 

The Government will be represented at the hui by Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka and MP Dan Bidois. But the Minister for Regional Development Shane Jones certainly won’t be attending. He's already told the media he’s got something else planned, and suspects the hui will turn into a “monumental moan session” anyway. The response is not entirely surprising from a leader who never shies away from controversy. 

But if the Government is looking to earn its treaty partner’s trust at a particularly precarious time, then taking this gathering seriously would be a good start. 

Some of the greatest Māori minds in the country are about to set the tone for an important few weeks in the political calendar. The discussions on Saturday will follow the Prime Minister to his visit to Rātana next week, and then to Waitangi next month. 

Nothing will be left unsaid. And it would be wise for Christopher Luxon to pay attention. 

Image: A hīkoi walks towards Waitangi Treaty grounds on February 6, 2023. Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

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