The new Parliament was yet to even sit before people took to the streets today to make their feelings known about plans to end co-governance. 1News looks at the symbolism of today’s action.
“This is not a protest. It’s an activation.”
So said Te Pāti Māori as crowds marched to Parliament and through other city and town centres this morning as part of a “nationwide action day”.
The party’s social media accounts called on both tangata whenua (people of the land – Māori) and tangata Tiriti (people of the Treaty – non-Māori) to make a stand today.
“This is our first hit out and tomorrow Tuesday the 5th is the opening of parliament where all the MPs are required to swear an oath of allegiance to the King of England,” the party wrote.
“This is why we have chosen this day to take action.”
It asked that the marches be peaceful, respectful, mokopuna-friendly and held in wairua pai (good spirits or positive vibes).
‘It doesn’t matter if the government listens or not’
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi told Breakfast this morning today’s action was about “an Aotearoa Hou”.
Aotearoa Hou was the election slogan Te Pāti Māori campaigned on, which the party summed up as meaning “hope and future, peace and dignity”.
“[Today is] about bringing our people together, this is about an Aotearoa Hou, and what we’re doing now is we’re heading off to Parliament, we’re going to make sure our voices are heard over there,” Waititi said.
“What this tells you is that there’s a movement on the streets, our people are mobilising, they want to see an Aotearoa hou.
“We stand in solidarity together - this is about Aotearoa, this is not just about Māori, this is about tangata whenua, this is about tangata Tiriti, and we’re going to make our voices loud and clear.”
Waititi said they chose today for the activation because it’s the day the new Parliament is sworn in.
“This is the Commission Opening of Parliament,” he said.
“We have to swear an oath to King Charles today; I find it very difficult to do that. But I want to swear an oath to our people, I want to swear an oath to our mokopuna, and I want to swear an oath to our tomorrow.
“It doesn’t matter if the Government listens or not - our people are activated, our people are ready, and our people will continue to fight as we’ve done for 183 years.”
‘Protesting equal rights’
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon today said the criticism of his Government was “unfair”.
"I think it's pretty unfair to be honest. I think the reality is we've been in government for a week; we are going to get going and we are going to get things done for Māori and non-Māori, and that's what our focus is going to be,” he said.
ACT Party leader David Seymour, whose party has pushed for a referendum on the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, took a dim view of the marches around the country today.
“This morning, protesters backed by Te Pāti Māori have attempted to block roads and disrupt the opening of Parliament and New Zealanders’ lives just because they’re unhappy with the election result,” Seymour said in a statement.
"It's a sad day when a political party is protesting equal rights. They’re on the wrong side of history. New Zealanders want a respectful debate on the constitutional future of our country and that's what they've voted for.”
He went on to say Te Pāti Māori “doesn’t respect democracy in New Zealand”.
“The sooner Te Pāti Māori come to terms with what New Zealand voted for, and started providing some policy solutions that will help people instead of divisive theatrics that cause more division, the better.”
Seymour accused the party of trying to “disrupt” both the official opening of Parliament and “the lives of the many other Kiwis who just want to get to work and go about their business”.
The NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi said the state highway network had largely returned to normal by 10.30am following today’s action.
People also dispersed from Parliament grounds at around 8.30am, with the official opening of Parliament scheduled to begin at 11am.
Police said the protests were peaceful with no arrests.
‘Only the beginning’
Ōtaki-based artist Hohepa ‘Hori’ Thompson told 1News today’s action was “only the beginning” as the new Government begins a programme of work aimed at ending co-governance.
He called on the Government to have respect for Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
"You've got three guys in there [Christopher Luxon, David Seymour and Winston Peters] that have no understanding of te reo Māori, that have no understanding of te ao Māori."
Image taken by 1News.
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