Thousands gathered nationwide to protest against the new National-led coalition’s suite of policies they say are anti-Māori. 

Te Pāti Māori is leading this series of protests or activations called Toitū te Tiriti.

Marches were held in Te Tai Tokerau, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wairarapa, Tāmaki Makaurau, Hauraki-Waikato, Waiariki, and Te Tai Hauāuru.

The organiser of the Whanganui protest, a Māori activist since the early 80s, Ken Mair (Whanganui) said Toitū te Tiriti is straightforward in that it’s about upholding and enhancing Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

“As we know it’s clearly under attack right now and we need to stand up and fight for Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Basically our rights as a people,” he said.

Mair says from the 80s till now the kaupapa has remained the same: “it’s about rangatiratanga, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, our lands, and the theft of our lands”.

The new coalition government announced it would support the first reading of the ACT Party’s Treaty Principles Bill which seeks to change the Treaty principles. 

This would send the Bill to a select committee, where it would be open for debate and public submissions. National and NZ First have not committed to supporting it further than that.

It’s just one of many policies aimed at removing the principles of partnership from government legislation. 

This week Transport Minister Simeon Brown directed Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency staff to use the agency’s English name first, a move many at the protest were angered by.

Te reo Māori has seen a huge revitalisation over the past 40 years after being on the brink of extinction.

Māori activist Quack Pirihi (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara) said there are no “gentle respectful words” they can use to describe the new government.

“I think they’re representing their ancestors very well if their ancestors were Willam Hobson and James Cook. I think they seek to further colonise Aotearoa. I think they want to destroy what Māori have in Aotearoa.

“If we don't stand up now and protest there won’t be any other opportunities. This is what our future descendants will remember us for. This is a kaupapa for generations. It's either going to make or break the Māori liberation movement, especially with the policies we’ve seen coming out of the colonised coalition,” they said.

Māori activist Awhina Twomey (Ngāti Hinemanu, Ngati Rangitāne) said she was there because of the “desire to stand up and be counted and to do something not just for Māori but for everybody”. 

She said the policies that the government announced “aren't going to be good for the majority, they’ll only be good for the minority”.

Twomey said she worries about Māori every year, but this is one of the times she thinks people will start to feel mataku (scared). 

“It was only two years ago that I was thinking, ‘Wow, isn't it amazing to be alive and to see something like Matariki made to be a part of our public holidays’, we would’ve never thought that would happen.

“The way te reo was going and the way people were looking at things, it was amazing and then today it’s like we're under attack and we need to stand up passively and say this isn't right,” she said.

The Whanganui protest briefly shut down State Highway 3, the main highway that enters Whanganui. 

Local iwi negotiated with the courthouse to close for the day, and the protesters marched into the Whanganui police station where they sang waiata and performed a haka. 

These protests coincide with the same day new MPs are being sworn into Parliament.

Te Pāti Māori MPs’ gave their oaths of allegiance to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as well as monarch King Charles.

MP for Te Tai Tonga Tākuta Ferris broke protocol as he spoke from his seat swearing to be faithful to mokopuna according to tikanga Māori and to perform his functions as an MP under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon called the criticism of the new government “unfair”, saying the coalition had been in government for a week and were “going to get things done for Māori and non-Maori, and that's what our focus is going to be”.

He said he had “constructive sessions” with iwi leaders to “work together” on improving outcomes for Māori.

"It’s been really important to me to make sure we actually work together on improving outcomes for Maori, that’s been a lot of our focus.”

Correction (December 6, 2023): This article was edited after publishing due to the misspelling of Tiriti, Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara and the misspelling of the ingoa whānau of Awhina Twomey. We are sorry about this. 

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Why MPs must swear an oath of allegiance to the King of England

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‘Nationwide action day’: Why today and what is it all about?

“This is not a protest. It’s an activation.”

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Te Matahiapo Safari Hynes writes on what the new government's policies mean for Māori.