ACT's David Seymour rejects iwi leader's claim Government trying to 'destroy' Māori

A Whanganui iwi leader says the new Government wants to "destroy Māori", but ACT leader David Seymour rejected that assertion on Wednesday. 

Ken Mair, chair of several Whanganui iwi entities, told Newshub the Government's policies and actions are a "clear attack upon many aspirations, and many things that were fought for over the decades. That's intolerable".

Mair's comments come ahead of the national Hui for Unity, to be held on Saturday at Tūrangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawāhia. 

Several thousand are expected to attend. 

It's being hosted by Kiingi Tuheitia Pootatau Te Wherowhero VII, also known as Kiingi Tuheitia or the Māori King. 

Mair told Newshub he's excited for it. 

"It's a fantastic opportunity for our people to highlight and articulate their major concerns around what this new Government is doing," he said. "I'm optimistic." 

The purpose of the hui is to "unify the nation and ensure all voices are heard when holding the new Coalition Government to account", the Kiingitanga said in a statement last month.

The King issued a Royal Proclamation (Te Paki o Matariki) after thousands marched across Aotearoa to protest some policies by the new Government. 

Attendees at the hui will discuss a unified response to the Government's kaupapa Māori policies, especially te reo Māori and Te Tiriti (The Treaty), Newshub understands. 

Meanwhile, New Zealand First deputy leader Shane Jones told RNZ the national hui could become a "monumental moan session". 

But those words weren't echoed by the Prime Minister, as Christopher Luxon and Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka met with the King on Monday. 

"The meeting had been planned since last year and was an opportunity to further build on the relationship they have established in the last two years," the PM's office said. 

Mair told Newshub he's not concerned anyway. 

"Let's not worry about individuals. Let's not worry about all the negativity in regard to their comments." 

The focus should be on "dealing with the attacks by this new Government" and changing the system "that allows them to get away with it", he said. 

Mair dreams of "a system that means we work as a collective," with Te Tiriti (The Treaty) "permeating at the core", he added. 

"At the moment we don't have that." 

But Seymour told Newshub it's "wrong" to label the Government's policies as an attack on Māori. 

"I think it's important there's more discussion of our treaty and our nation's constitutional future," Seymour said. 

"Everyone is entitled under the standing orders, the rules of Parliament, to use te reo [Māori] or English. There's been no change there."

The coalition Government has instead forced ministries and departments to have their primary name in English language.

It's likely to cost millions of taxpayer dollars to do so. 

"They are attempting to undermine, basically destroy what we've tried to put in place over the last 40 years," said Mair. 

Despite that, a "wonderful" younger generation was coming of age, he added. 

"Whether people call it trying to erase us, or destroy us, or whatever, it's never going to happen." 

The hui ā-motu (national hui), called Taakiri Tuu Te Kotahitanga, Taakiri Tuu te Mana Motuhake, kicks off on Saturday morning.