Te Pāti Māori is taking its activism to Parliament today as its MPs give their oaths of allegiance to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as well as monarch King Charles.
National’s Gerry Brownlee has also been confirmed as the new Speaker of the House.
It comes amid a national day of protest outside the halls of power focusing on some of the new Government’s policies on Te Tiriti/The Treaty of Waitangi, with fellow opposition parties Labour and the Greens also pledging to fight back.
MPs of the new government have come together in the House for the first time for the swearing-in ceremony.
Several members of the Māori Party are wearing cultural garments, while some Green Party MPs are wearing keffiyeh over their shoulders, a sign of their support for Palestine amid the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Tākuta Ferris, the first Te Pāti Māori MP to be sworn in, has broken protocol in speaking from his seat and swearing to be faithful to mokopuna according to tikanga Māori and perform his functions as MP in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Te Pāti Māori MP Tākuta Ferris in the House during the swearing-in ceremony. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Ferris then signed a document on the desk of party co-leader Rawiri Waititi which states the promise to mokopuna and the Treaty, before performing a haka in front of the Clerk of the House. He then swore the Parliamentary oath like previous MPs.
MPs Mariameno Kapa-Kingi and Takutai Moana Natasha Kemp have also sworn their allegiance to Te Tiriti o Waitangi before following up by stating the oath concerning allegiance to the King.
Te Pāti Māori Hauraki-Waikato MP Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke mentioned Māori King Kiingi Tūheitia during her initial statement in te reo.
MPs are going one-by-one, stating the oath mainly in English but some also used te reo Māori or other languages.
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has made the oath. Given he was right next to Labour’s side of the House, Labour MPs were able to joke with the PM about his pronunciation, including Opposition leader Chris Hipkins who said “well done” to his opposite for getting the pronunciation of the oath correct after he slipped up during his confirmation as Prime Minister last week.
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters watch on as the swearing-in ceremony continues in the House. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour’s Willie Jackson took the opportunity to poke fun at New Zealand First leader Winston Peters by asking the Deputy Prime Minister to say the oath in te reo Māori - a joke informed by Peters’ belief te reo was over-used.
Peters said “boo” in response and spoke the oath in English.
Brownlee made new Speaker of the House
National’s Gerry Brownlee has just been confirmed as the new Speaker of the House.
He wasn’t the only nomination - Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer nominated Labour MP and former Speaker Adrian Rurawhe to continue in the role.
However, Rurawhe did not accept the nomination. Waititi cheekily said: “What a pity.”
Tradition dictated the new Speaker was supposed to pretend to resist as two National Party whips pulled him towards the Speaker’s chair. Brownlee didn’t really play along, walking normally.
“What a surprise”, were Brownlee’s first words as Speaker, acknowledging the open secret his nomination had long been.
Brownlee also joked that Speakers before him had come under much “opprobrium”, including from himself.
“I want to express that we all might get on a little better than I got on with some of the Speakers before.
“Probably my biggest challenge will be keeping myself in order.”
Brownlee said he wanted to acknowledge Adrian Rurawhe before him who had brought “calm and dignity to the House at a time it was needed”.
He said he was grateful for their discussions and counsel offered by Rurawhe if needed.
Brownlee said he would look to instil an open environment in the House with “free flow of debate” and he would not get “hung up on the rules”.
On standing orders, he said they would be a “framework but not absolute”.
History of objecting swearing-in ceremony
It’s not the first time Te Pāti Māori’s MPs have raised objections with the swearing-in ceremony, that requires MPs to pledge allegiance to the Crown. Back in 2005 all four MPs swore an oath to Te Tiriti as well as the Queen, before being forced to repeat it without a Treaty reference.
In 2011, Hone Harawira was kicked out of Parliament after seeking to only pledge allegiance to Te Tiriti. In 2020, co-leader Rawiri Waititi swore the oath in te reo on a copy of Te Tiriti and a Ringatū Bible.
A spokesman for the party said they would first do their own oaths, including a reference to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, before taking the Parliamentary oath which must occur for them to become MPs.
The party has been highly critical of the process, describing it last week as “symbolic of the colonial power that Parliament places above the mana of tangata whenua”.
They say it is not the equal partnership consented to by Te Tiriti o Waitangi and have been calling for Parliament to include both options.
The protest action comes as Te Pāti Māori calls for nationwide action in response to the Government’s “assault on tangata whenua and Te Tiriti o Waitangi”.
Te Pāti Māori party secretary Lance Norman said they were expecting hundreds - potentially thousands - of vehicles to join convoys heading slowly into Auckland’s city centre along the state highways from the North Shore, the northwestern and southern motorways.
Norman said the protests across main centres had emerged after iwi leaders and Māori providers met soon after the new Government was announced, and confirmed on Sunday a national day of action for the first day of Parliament on Tuesday.
The protests were in response to the National, Act and NZ First coalition’s policies on Te Tiriti o Waitangi - such as Act’s bid to redefine the principles, scrapping of the Māori Health Authority and Oranga Tamariki policies along with repealing the smokefree generation law, which disproportionately impacts Māori.
King Charles III as he leaves after his coronation ceremony in May. Photo / AP
National agreed to support Act’s policy for a binding public referendum on defining the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi through its first stage.
The commitment does not ensure there will be a referendum, as National and NZ First have not pledged any support beyond the committee stage, but does ensure there will be a national conversation about the issue.
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said as the country’s only tangata whenua party they were “doing what is expected of us”.
“We will push back, we will mobilise, we will use every platform whether it is the House, social media, on the ground, international law and the courts. We will collectivise and we will fight.”
Ngarewa-Packer said there was a generational movement, with youth in particular pushing back against the new Government, as evidenced by the election of 21-year-old Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke over Labour stalwart Nanaia Mahuta in Hauraki-Waikato.
Not all protests have been organised by the party, but the party is helping to facilitate and advertise the different actions.
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said Te Pāti Māori’s plans in Parliament were the responsibility of the clerk of the House.
On the protests, Luxon said everyone was entitled to the right to protest and encouraged them to be respectful and lawful.
He said they were deeply committed to improving outcomes for Māori, many of which had gone backwards under the previous Government.
Luxon said they had only been in Government a week and he wanted iwi to understand they were deeply committed to Māori.
Labour’s Māori Development spokesman Willie Jackson said the planned protests were “not a surprise”.
“There’s a lot of anger out there at the moment. Māori are frustrated.
“Although there’s not a referendum, it still looks like an attack on Māori and so Māori organisations, iwi Māori are responding accordingly.”
Jackson said he thought the country was going to become more divided as a result of the Government’s policies.
“I think we’re going to enter our most divisive time in our political history over the next year or so.
“I think most Kiwis were actually quite comfortable, particularly the younger ones, with co-governance and other policies.
“I don’t think National voters thought they were voting for Seymour’s retake on the Treaty.”
On Te Pāti Māori’s planned actions in Parliament, Jackson said he supported them but wouldn’t do so himself.
“I think our people should have an option [other than the King].
“But I’m thinking more about what we have to do right now in terms of responding to the attacks on us.”
After all MPs are sworn in on Tuesday morning, Parliament will elect the Speaker of the House. Luxon said National would be nominating Gerry Brownlee.
Michael Neilson is a political reporter based at Parliament in Wellington. He joined the Herald in 2018 and has covered social issues, the environment and Māori affairs.
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