Government served message by iwi leaders worried about 'sustained attack' on Maori

"We have no choice but to fight." 

Iwi leaders have issued the Government that blunt message about what they call a "sustained attack on Māori".  

The Government fronted up to the Iwi Chairs Forum on Friday, the first time David Seymour has engaged this year about his controversial Treaty Principles Bill. 

But rather than solely listening to concerns, the Prime Minister showed up with a challenge to iwi leaders - telling them it was their responsibility to get Māori children going to school.  

Friday's powhiri got temporarily tense as Māori Crown Relations minister Tama Potaka joked Seymour was there as an ambassador for his hapu - Ngati Rehia. A kaumatua politely pulled Potaka into line.  

"The kaumatua did make some comments but the motu want to engage with David Seymour and it is a great opportunity to do that," said Potaka. 

He replied, "kao" when asked if he got a bit carried away.  

Seymour, the architect and newly minted shepherd of the controversial Treaty Principles Bill, fronted up to Māoridom for the first time this year - sparking a massive turnout to the Iwi Chairs Forum. 

"There's clear differences but there's lots of talking. That's a positive," said Seymour. 

He claimed he'd won some hearts and minds in the room. 

"[There were] really mixed reactions. People asking for selfies, 'I've got to show this to my kids because you've changed my mind.'

"Other people say, 'We will never agree, we don't want one person, one vote.'"

But no one actually said that. 

Asked by Newshub if someone used the words, "one person, one vote", Seymour said: "Effectively yes." 

Those specific words? 

"Ah no. They said things that you can sum as that." 

The message from Māoridom is clear. 

"There are a number in these arrangements that just grate at the Māori soul," said Rahui Papa of Waikato-Tainui. 

The Government was well aware it was going to be challenged - so came prepared with its own wero. 

"Frankly, when two-thirds of Māori kids are not at school regularly, that is a responsibility for both iwi leaders and the Government to work on. It's a responsibility for people to step up and take responsibility and get their kids to school," said Prime Minister Christopher Luxon. 

He said he was being "straight up" about "what we expect them to do and what they expect us to do".

Papa said: "Of course we want our children educated but we want them educated not just in the Western world - we want them cloaked in their culture as well." 

The Government's contribution felt rehearsed, Papa said.

"I think they came here with prescribed speeches." 

All that straight up talk had some leaders feeling as though the Government was there to talk - not listen.