Bayden Barber, Chair, Ngāti Kahungunu. Photo: RNZ Angus Dreaver

[As published in March/April BayBuzz magazine.]

The election and induction of the new coalition government have sent shockwaves around Māoridom. 

The new coalition government of National, Act and NZ First has announced an opening round of targeted actions and repeals that intentionally threaten and directly breach the preexisting and enduring rights of Ngāti Kahungunu hapū and iwi. The proposed changes announced by the government are a concentrated attack on Māori rights, and several Government Acts, services, and commitments to address the many losses and ongoing inequities suffered as a result of colonisation. 

In joint announcements, the government seeks to redefine Māori rights under Te Tiriti o Waitangi and remove ratification of the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They have also indicated the removal of:

• The Māori Health Authority 

• Te Mana o te Wai from the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020

• Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 – a Tiriti o Waitangi-based provision that ensures Kahungunu tamariki-mokopuna remain in the care of their whanau, hapū, iwi.

• The use of te reo Māori in government departments

• Power and authority of the Waitangi Tribunal

• Māori Wards from local councils

Whilst each of these policy changes is damaging to Māori cultural, health and well-being outcomes, the most alarming and most dangerous from an iwi Māori perspective is ACT’s Treaty Principles Bill. 

ACT has called for a referendum on the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and, although the referendum did not make it into the coalition agreement, National and New Zealand First have agreed to a Treaty Principles Bill going to a select committee for further consideration.

Ngāti Kahungunu opposes any attempt by this government to rewrite or water down Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It is our national document, the foundation on which this country is founded. My ancestor Harawira Mahikai Te Tātere from Ngāti Kurukuru, Waimārama, signed Te Tiriti along with Te Hāpuku and Hoani Waikato on the banks of the Ngaruroro River in 1840. The intent and aspiration for their descendants by signing Te Tiriti o Waitangi was clearly understood by our ancestors. To have the ACT party rewrite Te Tiriti in a way that undermines this intent and aspiration will not be tolerated. 

The Māori response has been swift and clear in opposition to The Treaty Principles Bill. 

On the 16th of December, a Hui-ā- Iwi was called for all Ngāti Kahungunu to meet at Waimārama Marae to plan how we respond to this and other government directives. It was well attended with hundreds of whānau engaging in-person or online through the live feed. There were 30 motions given from over 40 speakers on the day. Yes, there was much said about government policy, but more importantly it was how Ngāti Kahungunu can draw on its whakapapa (lineage and history) and Tikanga (indigenous practice) to provide the personal, whānau and hapū resilience needed to stand strong as Kahungunu despite the challenges of the time (government policy, cyclone Gabrielle etc.) 

A Hui-ā-Motu called by Kīngi Tūheitia at Tūrangawaewae followed on January 20th. Over 12,000 people attended. It was clear that iwi Māori had mobilised in numbers sending a message to the new coalition government that Māori are looking for strategic solutions to the challenges ahead and that it will fight the proposed Treaty Prinicipals Bill. Ngāti Kahungunu took a bus, vans and private vehicles up to Ngaruawāhia, firstly to show our support and secondly to take the kōrero from our hui at Waimārama. 

The Rātana church’s annual celebration followed three days later with big numbers attending the celebration. I have not attended Rātana for several years so it was no surprise to see the larger-than-normal numbers in attendance with King Tūheitia leading the attendees. Politics was to the fore with many speakers raising their opposition to the Treaty Principles Bill. Minister Shane Jones said in his kōrero, “If you want to talk about the Treaty, this is not the place … come to Waitangi! 

The wero (challenge) was laid, and the wero was lifted! Thousands attended this year’s Waitangi celebrations. The atmosphere was electric, with Ngāpuhi doing a fantastic job of welcoming the hordes of visitors to Waitangi, the home of Te Tiriti. I had attended the National Iwi Chairs Forum the week prior in Kerikeri so had the opportunity to engage with the Prime Minister and his Ministers at that forum. Iwi leaders were clear, that the number one priority was the sanctity of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and that it should be left alone … hands off! 

These messages were reinforced at Waitangi at the top marae (Whare Rūnanga) where iwi outlined their thoughts on the current political situation. Much was spoken about “Kotahitanga” or unity of thought and effort going forward. The Kotahitanga movement started in Ngāti Kahungunu, at Waipatu Marae in 1893, shortly followed by hui at Pāpāwai Marae in the Wairarapa and other locations across the motu. The movement was a response to Treaty breaches and large-scale land losses across the country at that time. There was a call to form a similar structure to combat some of the proposed changes. 

I returned home for Waitangi Day which was great. The hīkoi from Waitangi (HB) to Clive to celebrate the local signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and then the celebrations at the Regional Sports Park where thousands of whānau enjoyed good food, entertainment and company were fantastic. We celebrated our past but more importantly, a future filled with hope and aspiration for all people in Aotearoa under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

We are optimistic for this future, but know that we are in for the fight of our lives to protect the constitutional foundation this country was built on. 

Bayden Barber is chair of Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc. 


Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *