A protest will be held in Masterton today as part of a “Nationwide Action Day” across the country called for by Te Pāti Māori [TPM] in response to policies of the new coalition government that TPM has branded “anti-Māori”.
The party has characterised such policies as scrapping the Māori Health Authority and repealing the smokefree generation law, along with National agreeing to support Act’s policy for a binding public referendum on defining the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi through its first stage, as an “assault on tangata whenua and Te Tiriti o Waitangi”.
Today has been chosen for the demonstrations as it will also mark the opening of the 54th Parliament, where all returning and newly elected MPs will meet and swear allegiance to the Crown.
Police were made aware of the planned protests yesterday morning, and Wairarapa Police have been in contact with the organiser of the Masterton hīkoi, Reon Te Maari-Kerr, to confirm the route and safety measures for the march.
Te Maari-Kerr, who also serves as the rohe moana kaitiaki [ocean guardian] for Ngāi Tūmapūhia A Rangi, said police involvement is crucial for safety.
“It’s safety for everybody, not just our own people, but also other members of the public,” he said.
Te Maari-Kerr said his involvement started when he noticed others around New Zealand preparing to protest the new government’s “anti-Māori” policies but he didn’t know what was happening in Wairarapa.
“Across the rest of the country, Māori are standing up, and so I just thought I’d jump in and do something,” he said.
“Without the Tiriti, the government doesn’t exist. Our government was formed through the Tiriti. Rather than trying to tweak it to suit, which you can’t do, it should be learnt to be abided by,” Te Maari-Kerr said.
A TPM spokesperson has said that the nationwide call to action will be “just the start” of a series of protests over the next three years.
“It’s the beginning, a beginning of what’s to come,” the spokesperson said.
New Wairarapa MP Mike Butterick has been approached for comment about the protest but was not able to respond before print deadline.
Former Wairarapa MP and now Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty declined to comment on TPM’s planned protest when approached by the Times-Age.
“Te Pāti Māori are their own political party and is for them to justify their actions,” McAnulty said.
“The Labour Party will not be participating in these protests.”
It is understood the Masterton protest will be gathering at 9am at the Farriers Bar and Eatery car park.
The plan is for protesters to then proceed down Chapel St to the Kuripuni roundabout, before making their way back down Dixon St, although at print time this route had not been confirmed with police.