Tensions Run High in New Zealand Ahead of National Day Over Government’s Relationship With Maori

0
3710
Tensions Run High in New Zealand Ahead of National Day Over Government’s Relationship With Maori
1 of 7 | New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon speaks at the Waitangi Treaty House marae ahead of Waitangi Day celebrations in Waitangi, northern New Zealand, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. In a fiery exchange at the birthplace of modern New Zealand, Indigenous leaders strongly criticized the current government's approach to Maori, ahead of the country's national day. (Michael Cunningham/NZ Herald via AP)

WAITANGI, New Zealand (AP) — In a fiery exchange at the birthplace of modern New Zealand, Indigenous leaders on Monday strongly criticized the government’s approach to Maori, ahead of the country’s national day.

The holiday, known as Waitangi Day, is held on 6 February to mark the anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi, a foundation document signed by British colonists and Maori chiefs in 1840 that establishes and guides the relationship between New Zealand’s government and its Indigenous population.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and other members of his right-leaning coalition government visited the historic treaty grounds for a public meeting with Maori leaders on Monday.

The gathering unfolded amid months of protests against the government’s proposals to review the treaty and implement potential changes to how it affects modern laws.

After winning the election in October last year, Luxon’s National Party-led government foreshadowed policies to roll back the use of Maori language and Maori-specific public services, and redefine the impact of the treaty on the legal system.

The policy proposals have sparked nationwide Maori protests, which culminated in a call for unity from the Maori king through a rare royal proclamation in December.

A local Maori tribe welcomed Luxon on Monday with a spirited “haka” — a traditional dance or challenge accompanied by a chant — and song, before Maori speakers urged the government to change its course.