Thousands of people marched across New Zealand on Tuesday to voice their opposition to the new government’s policies that they say undermine the rights and interests of the Māori, the Indigenous people of the country. The protesters, who carried banners and flags with slogans such as “Honour the Treaty” and “Māori Lives Matter”, blocked roads and bridges in major cities, including Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.
The demonstrations were sparked by the recent announcements by the right-leaning coalition government, led by Prime Minister Judith Collins, that it would review the affirmative action programs for Māori in education and employment, scrap the planned Māori Health Authority, and remove references to the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of the nation, from official legislation and documents.
The protesters said these policies would undo decades of progress made by the Māori in achieving recognition and self-determination, and would violate the principles of partnership and consultation enshrined in the treaty. They also expressed solidarity with the Indigenous peoples around the world who face discrimination and oppression.
The government defended its policies as necessary to promote unity and equality among all New Zealanders, and accused the protesters of breaking the Covid-19 social distancing rules and disrupting public order. Collins said she was open to dialogue with the Māori leaders, but ruled out any changes to the government’s agenda.
The protests were supported by various Māori groups, such as the Kingitanga movement, the Ihumātao land protectors, and the Arms Down NZ campaign, as well as some opposition parties, human rights organizations, and trade unions. They vowed to continue their resistance until the government respects the treaty and the Māori rights.