More than 250 protesters blocked traffic on Whanganui’s main highway on Tuesday morning in opposition to Government policies labelled anti-Māori.
Mass protests around the country following a call from Te Pāti Māori happened the same day as MPs were being sworn into Parliament.
Government policies such as a potential Treaty principles referendum, removing the Māori Health Authority, erasing Māori names from Crown entities and repealing co-governance were seen as “attacking Māori on many fronts”.
Iwi leader Ken Mair said protesting in Whanganui would remain passive and non-violent.
More than 250 protesters stopped traffic on State Highway 3 through the Pūtiki roundabout. Photo / Bevan Conley
The hīkoi in Whanganui began in Pākaitore reserve before moving to the Pūtiki roundabout where more than 250 protesters flooded State Highway 3, stopping traffic getting through.
Police supervised the traffic block, which lasted for around 30 minutes.
Protester Haarangi Harrison said there were good people leading the kaupapa.
“I’m out here just like everyone else, to bring attention to the Government that their policies don’t sit right for us. We’re going to keep on doing this until there’s some changes.”
Mair said this was “the first of many” protests to come.
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“No ifs or buts about it, this is the first stage of many and, when we call, you can see that hundreds will turn out in Whanganui.
“This new Government has decided to attack us on many fronts, on te reo Māori, on the Treaty of Waitangi.”
He said shutting down Whanganui District Court for the day was a systemic challenge to the court system.
“We’re not going to tolerate our people getting locked up continually in the large numbers that they are.”
Dave Puohotaua said everything within Māoridom was being attacked by the new Government.
“They don’t want the treaty, they don’t want anything to do with Māoridom, and they better wise up because we’re tangata whenua and we’ll always be here, we’ve been here for thousands of years and will continue for generations to come.”
Mair said the protest was sending a strong message to the Government against “racist rhetoric and race-baiting.
“This has been going on for a long, long time, not just with this government but previous ones as well.”
Hundreds of protesters also gathered at Pākaitore on Monday night to fly Tino Rangatiratanga flags and set up a marquee for the protest.
Eva de Jong is a reporter for the Whanganui Chronicle covering health stories and general news. She began as a reporter in 2023.
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