Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi has been allowed to speak in Parliament while wearing his hei tiki after he was booted from the debating chamber on Tuesday for wearing it in place of a Western-style tie.
As Waititi stood to ask a question during Question Time on Wednesday, Speaker Trevor Mallard sighed as he called on him. The previous day, Mallard had told Waititi he couldn't be in the House without wearing a tie, but Waititi argued he was wearing "Māori business attire".
Waititi was later kicked out of Parliament for trying to speak during Question Time after Mallard initially warned he wouldn't call on him while he wasn't wearing a tie.
He and fellow Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngawera-Packer said later on Tuesday afternoon they would keep pushing against the rule that requires men to wear a tie, and Waititi showed up in the debating chamber the next day wearing his hei tiki again.
In a letter to Mallard, Waititi said since Green Party MP Ricardo Menéndez March is allowed to wear a bolo tie in Parliament - reflecting his Mexican heritage - Māori MPs should be allowed to wear a hei tiki taonga in place of a tie.
"The Green Member of Parliament from Mexico wore his own neck adornment that has been sanctioned by you because it is his culture from Mexico," Waititi and Ngarewa-Packer said in the letter.
"It must follow that the wearing of a hei tiki by a Māori Member of Parliament representing the Māori Party and unashamedly Māori must be allowed to wear his cultural statements of identity."
The letter goes on to say: "Any action to not give Māori equality of rights in the House to adorn themselves with their cultural positions, must be seen to be discriminatory, unfair, unjust and unequal."
After a meeting between the Speaker and the Māori Party, Waititi told Newshub he was optimistic about change.
"I think positive, in terms of finding a resolution heading forward. I think there's a mood for change, which is obviously going through some processes to make that happen. The Māori Party is willing to do that because we feel strongly about being able to practice our cultural identity in Parliament."