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New Zealanders Rally Against Government's Anti-Māori Policies

Photo : AFP

In Wellington, Auckland, and various other cities across New Zealand, throngs of demonstrators flooded the streets on Thursday to voice vehement opposition to the policies of the country's center-right government, particularly concerning the Indigenous Maori population. The protests unfolded amidst growing discontent over Prime Minister Christopher Luxon's administration's purported undermining of longstanding legal protections afforded to the Maori community.

Specific grievances included proposals to Anglicize the names of certain government departments and the potential closure of Te Aka Whai Ora, the Maori health authority. Moreover, the government's contemplation of revisiting the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, a pivotal accord safeguarding Indigenous rights, has stoked further outrage among Maori and their allies.

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Among the multitude of demonstrators was Odessa Stewart, a primary school teacher hailing from the Rongowhakaata iwi (tribe), who expressed concerns for the welfare and future prospects of her three children. Stewart underscored the prevailing sense of vulnerability and apprehension pervasive within New Zealand's one-million-strong Maori populace, stressing the imperative for governmental accountability and fidelity to treaty obligations.

Prime Minister Luxon, who assumed office last October, found his administration at the center of the storm as Te Pati Maori (the Maori Party) orchestrated rallies to coincide with the unveiling of the government's inaugural budget. Te Pati Maori issued a scathing indictment of what they deemed "anti-Maori policies" propagated by Luxon's government, warning of dire consequences for Maori land and future generations if such measures were left unchecked.

The protests in Wellington disrupted lunchtime traffic as impassioned demonstrators, adorned with the iconic red-and-black Maori flag, filled the streets, echoing chants of 'Tutira Mai Nga Iwi' in a resounding call for unity. Opposition Labour lawmaker Carmel Sepuloni, present at the rally, highlighted the widespread discontentment simmering beneath the surface, attributing the unrest to a groundswell of opposition against the government's policy agenda.

Luxon's Office refrained from immediate comment on the protests, although the Prime Minister, on the eve of the demonstrations, expressed hope for their peaceful and lawful conduct. Nonetheless, the fervor and intensity of the protests underscored the deep-seated grievances and profound sense of disillusionment pervading segments of New Zealand's population, particularly within the Maori community, in response to perceived governmental encroachments on Indigenous rights and heritage.

May 30, 2024 3:44 p.m. 344

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