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New Zealand government accused of being anti-Māori

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The Government is looking at changing how the country’s founding document – the Treaty of Waitangi – impacts the lives of Māori iwi (communities).
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The New Zealand Government has been accused of being “anti-Māori” by Māori politicians and community leaders over its plans to scale back several policies.

The Government is looking at changing how the country’s founding document – the Treaty of Waitangi – impacts the lives of Māori iwi (communities).

The move has prompted a senior Māori politician to accuse the New Zealand Government of showing characteristics of “white supremacists”.

New Zealand politics

New Zealand’s Prime Minister is Chris Luxon, who was the CEO of Air New Zealand for seven years before entering politics. He became National Party leader and Leader of the Opposition in 2021.

National won 50 seats at the October election after six years of Labour leadership.

To form the 61 seats it needed to form a majority government, National formed a three-party coalition with smaller parties ACT and NZ First.

Coalition deal

Under agreements struck between National and its two partners, Luxon said he would consider cutting services including Te Aka Whai Ora, the Māori Health Authority set up in 2022.

Te Aka Whai Ora aims to close health gaps between between Māori and non-Māori New Zealanders.

The National Party has frequently criticised the body for being ineffective, and threatened to dissolve it.

Te reo Māori government departments

Many government agencies have dual English-Māori names. However, NZ First and National’s coalition agreement included a commitment to roll back this naming convention, except for departments specifically related to Māori iwi.

In the lead-up to the election, Luxon said he wanted an “English-first” approach to government departments.

While English is predominantly spoken across New Zealand, te reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language have special legal status as the country’s official languages.

Treaty of Waitangi

New Zealand’s Treaty of Waitangi, signed by the Crown and Māori chiefs in 1840, is the country’s founding document. It was aimed at ensuring a foundation of respect between Māori and non-Māori.

The Treaty includes an agreement by the British to ensure Māori would have the same rights as all other people in New Zealand.

A Treaty tribunal was set up as a way of resolving disputes relating to the rights of Māori, including protections around fishing, education, and traditional languages.

A leaked memo suggests the Government intends to propose a bill changing how the Treaty is legally interpreted.

The Government confirmed the leaked document is legitimate.

The memo said the Government‘s proposed bill would reflect “the relationship the Crown has with all citizens of New Zealand”, rather than specifically reflecting the relationship between the Crown and Māori iwi.

The leaked document noted there hadn’t been any significant consultation with iwi on the changes.

This led to concern from Te Pāti Māori (the Māori party). It accused the Government of trying to “erase” the Treaty of Waitangi.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the government’s policies displayed “all the traits of typical white supremacists”.

New Zealand government response

Speaking last month, Luxon said his party would honour the Treaty of Waitangi. Luxon said, however, that he was not in favour of new “bureaucracies” or “authorities” to achieve better outcomes for iwi.

He also rejected the claims of white supremacy levelled at his government, describing the accusations as “divisive” and “offensive”.

“We want to make sure all New Zealanders do well. I want to see Māori thriving in this country, I want to see non-Māori thriving in this country,” he said.

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