Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka says accusing Govt of white supremacy 'premature'

The Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka says he doesn't believe the Government's actions are based in white supremacy, calling that assertion "premature".

Potaka's comments come after several speakers criticised the coalition over its kaupapa Māori policies at the Hui ā Motu (National Hui) in Ngāruawāhia on Saturday.

Up to 10,000 people attended the hui at Tūrangawaewae Marae, hosted by Kiingi Tuheitia, also known as the Māori King, and Waikato Tainui.

Politicians attending the hui included Labour's Willie Jackson, Carmel Sepuloni, Peeni Henare, and others, plus Marama Davidson, Darlene Tana and Steve Abel from the Greens. The full caucus from Te Pāti Māori also came.

What did the speakers say?

Speakers attending included legal experts, former politicians, and prominent Māori figures from around the country.

Lawyer Dayle Takitimu took aim at the Government earlier in the day.

"An illiterate white supremacist is a nuisance, and a hōhā (annoyance), but an illiterate white supremacist in power is dangerous," Takitimu told the crowd."

She also called the Government "Treaty illiterate".

"We have seen that as recently as last evening, when the leaked document that has spread throughout Māoridom and social media, was received that absolutely strips the tapu and the mana out of the Treaty arrangement that we have with the Crown," she said.

Takitimu was referring to a Ministry of Justice document that leaked on Friday, showing the Government's draft Treaty of Waitangi principles.

During coalition negotiations in November, National struck a deal with ACT and New Zealand First to progress a 'Treaty Principles Bill' to the select committee stage.

On Saturday, Potaka confirmed that was still the case, and that National will not support a referendum on the matter.

Several speakers at the Hui ā Motu in Tūrangawaewae on Saturday criticised the Government for its kaupapa Māori policies.
Several speakers at the Hui ā Motu in Tūrangawaewae on Saturday criticised the Government for its kaupapa Māori policies. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Official advice to the Government describes the bill by the ACT Party as "highly contentious".

Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith told Newshub on Friday the document hasn't been seen by Cabinet yet, but National will "support it to the select committee as per the coalition agreement."

"That gives everybody the opportunity to discuss these issues, but that's as far as our support is," he added.

Kiingi Tuheitia addresses crowd

Kiingi Tuheitia also criticised the Government in a speech to the crowd late afternoon.

"We are only interested in one version [of the Treaty] - Te Reo," he said.

"By turning up we've sent a strong message and that's the message that has been heard around the world."

The King said kotahitanga, or unity, is the way forward.

"Those who want to divide us, I say this: you know how Winston talks about 'elite Māori'? Well, we're all elite Māori," he continued.

"Elite, because of our whakapapa and our mana."

Kiingi Tuheitia said he wants Te Tiriti/the Treaty to be entrenched in constitutional law, so it can't be changed by the Government of the day.

"To understand the Treaty you need our reo and tikanga. Don't look at the courts to understand the Treaty. Look to the marae.

"There's no principles. The Treaty is written. That's it."

He thanked rangatahi who attended too.

Māori Development Minister responds

Potaka addressed criticisms while speaking to reporters after speeches concluded.

"I think there's confronting comments all over our communities and all over society at the moment," he said.

"I get confronting comments in Parliament as well."

He said the assertion the Government had a basis in white supremacy was "premature".

The marae is a place where debates can happen over things such as unity, te reo Māori, identity, he added.

"Today I think that we saw that."

Despite that, he said he recognised some Māori felt alienated.

Potaka also defended the absence of Prime Minister Chrisopher Luxon, who told Newshub on Thursday politicians "are not front and centre of the hui".

Meanwhile, Willie Jackson, Labour's Māori development spokesperson, said the large turnout at the hui reflected angst among Māori at the Government's policies.

"The Prime Minister can play it down as much as he likes, but you don't get these sort of turnouts at the drop of a hat," he said.