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Paeroa protesters spoke out against "anti-Maori" policies on December 5. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

Paeroa protests “anti-Māori” government plans 

Protesters were out in Paeroa on December 5 to support the nationwide call to action led by Te Pāti Māori and many iwi across the country. 

The protest was in response to the new coalition government’s plans to review laws referencing Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) and remove Māori names from Crown and government entities, a move which Te Pāti Māori labelled “anti-Māori.”

The protest was planned for December 5 to coincide with the opening of Parliament. 

In a statement, Te Pāti Māori said its aim was to “assert the mana of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as enduring and everlasting”, “demonstrate the beginning of a unified Aotearoa response to the government’s assault on Tangata Whenua and Te Tiriti o Waitangi”, and “stand up for and protect the rights of all of our mokopuna”. 

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In Paeroa, a group of around a dozen people representing iwi from across Hauraki stationed themselves at the roundabout on State Highways 2 and 26, armed with the Tino Rangatiratanga and United Tribes Māori flags. Onlookers showed support for the cause, with horns ringing out as they drove by. 

It was a peaceful show of support, the protesters said, and they had no intention of impeding the flow of traffic, aiming instead to raise awareness about their concerns. 

At a press conference on December 4, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said the reversion of government agency names was not an attack on te reo, but a way to ensure all New Zealanders were able to understand their government. 

“We want to see more people embracing te reo, we think it’s really important. We’re a party that actually started that process of actually encouraging people to take on more te reo,” he said. 

“We are deeply committed to improving outcomes for Māori period …  the way we do that is we actually focus on the things that are important to Māori, and when you do that you get back to housing and health and education and law and order and the economy.” 

Māori development minister Tama Potaka said he respectfully disagreed with the sentiment that the new government was racist. He, too, said National was concerned by the same issues raised by protesters.