Thousands of New Zealanders protest new government’s ‘anti-Māori’ policies

housands of New Zealanders on Tuesday took to streets across the country to protest policies of the new right-wing coalition government, which many citizens view as being anti-Māori.

National Māori Action Day, led by the opposition Te Pāti Māori (Māori Party), took place on the opening day of parliament to oppose policies of the ruling coalition that look set to disproportionately affect indigenous New Zealanders, including around co-governance and the country’s 180-year-old founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi.

“We stand in solidarity together – this is about Aotearoa (New Zealand). This is not just about Māori, this is about tangata whenua (people of the land – Māori), this is about tangata tiriti (people of the treaty – non-Māori), and we’re going to make our voices loud and clear,” Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi told public broadcaster TVNZ.

“We have to swear an oath to King Charles (of England, New Zealand’s head of state) 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 (grandchildren), and I want to swear an oath to our tomorrow,” he added.

The libertarian ACT party – which governs alongside Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s right-wing National Party and the nationalist NZ First party – has pushed for a referendum on refining the principles of the Treaty, which was signed in 1840 between the British Crown and Māori leaders.

In addition, the new government wants to modify policies regarding co-governance with Māori, roll back the use of Māori language in public services, and scrap Te Aka Whai Ora Māori Health Authority and anti-smoking laws, at a time when health problems continue to disproportionately affect the indigenous population, and among other issues.

“We will not be erased, we will not be silenced, we will not be assimilated, we will not be subjugated,” Waititi said in statements to Newshub in the capital.

Prime Minister Luxon said the protests were “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, according to public broadcaster Radio New Zealand.

The protests were carried out peacefully throughout the country’s two main islands, although some infringements took place on Auckland roads with two arrests made, according to a statement from the police.

Marches took place in at least 20 cities around the country, mostly in the North Island, with the largest gathering in the capital, where around 500 to 800 people toured a circuit near parliament

By Muhammad Umair