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PoliticsNew Zealand

New Zealand: Thousands protest 'anti-Maori policies'

May 30, 2024

Tens of thousands of people have protested the government's new budget with critics saying it comes at the expense of Indigenous people. An opposition party has said it will launch a Maori parliament.

Protesters gather outside New Zealand's parliament buildings to protest policies seen as discriminatory to Indigenous Maori
Te Pati Maori party has pointed out concerns about a number of recent policies which are considered to erode Indegenious rightsImage: Lincoln Feast/REUTERS

Thousands of protesters took to the streets and obstructed traffic across New Zealand on Thursday to protest the release of the government's latest budget.

The demonstration took place after calls by activist groups and opposition party Te Pati Maori for people to protest, amid dissatisfaction with the ruling government's recent policies which they say are eroding Indigenous rights.

"We have to take a stand against all these anti-Maori policies implemented by this government," Te Pati Maori said in a statement. "We must also take a stand against all the policies that will destroy the whenua [land] that our mokopuna [future generations] will inherit."

Following the protest, the party issued a declaration of political independence and said it would launch a Maori parliament, the NZ Herald newspaper reported.

People attend a protest criticising the government for its policies toward the Indigenous Maori population
The protests were called by activist groups and the opposition party Te Pati MaoriImage: Dave Lintott/AFP

Maori party moves to establish own parliament

Protestors rallied outside New Zealand's parliament while several other rallies across the country are planned for later in the day.

Police officers said they were monitoring multiple gatherings.

"While there has been disruption to travel in some locations, the participants have been well-behaved overall and there have been no incidents of note reported," Police Assistant Commissioner Mike Johnson said.

The Te Pati Maori party has pointed out concerns about a number of policies being passed by the government, which was elected last October.

The party has criticized the policies and the impact they have on the Maori community, calling for their rights under the country's founding document and to make up for the wrongs of colonization.Maori make up around 20% of New Zealand's population.

"Seeing Tangata Tiriti [non-Maori] and Tangata Whenua [Maori] as one, which is the true intent of Te Tiriti o Waitangi [the Treaty of Waitangi], is exactly what scares the bejesus out of this government," they said in the statement, adding that this protest begins the  "process of establishing our own Parliament."

People attend a protest criticising the government for its policies toward the Indigenous Maori population which they say are racist policies and undermine a treaty that protects their Indigenous rights
Several protests are scheduled across New Zealand on ThursdayImage: Dave Lintott/AFP

New Zealand's new budget

New Zealand's center-right National-led government under Prime Minister Christoper Luxon unveiled its first budget on Thursday with tax cuts aimed at "everyday people."

Finance Minister Nicola Willis said it was for Kiwis "experiencing a prolonged cost-of-living crisis" while the country faces a poor economic outlook.

Luxon's coalition government said it would pay for it by tightening spending.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the government had carved out 3.71 billion New Zealand Dollars (US$2.26 billion, €2.1 billion) by asking ministerial agencies to cut back, and axing programs introduced by the previous government.

The island nation has been battered by natural disasters while global supply chain issues have hurt the geographically isolated nation.

Once dubbed the "rock-star economy" for its ability to weather financial crises, the agriculture-dependent economy tipped into recession by December 2023.

mk/ab (Reuters, DPA, AFP)