Māori leaders Hone Harawira, Mere Mangu, Reuben Taipari lambast PM Christopher Luxon's Waitangi speech

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon is standing by the speech he gave at Waitangi, saying he was repetitive on purpose.

Tens of thousands of people were in Waitangi on Tuesday with a strong message of Toitū Te Tiriti.

Luxon was criticised for re-using part of the script from his speech last year.

But he told Morning Report that was deliberate.

"I want repetition and consistency, particularly when there's a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about our support for the Treaty."

National has come under heavy criticism from many Māori for agreeing to support ACT's Treaty Principles Bill through the first reading, despite saying they won't vote for the legislation past that.

Luxon said that was a compromise.

"The message is really clear, the Treaty is sacrosanct, it's our founding document, it's in the constitution of the National party... we're deeply deeply committed to it and it's not changing," he said.

Asked whether he had failed to respond to current tensions, Luxon disagreed

"We understand there's tensions, particularly around the Treaty Principles Bill, those have been big topics of conversations."

'Bland' and 'not appropriate' speech

Activist and former MP Hone Harawira told Morning Report Luxon's speech was "very bland".

"It was speech that could have been written for any prime minister for any government over past 50 years."

However, Harawira said there was not much Luxon could have said.

"By openly allowing into his caucus, into his government, the kinds of people who want to threaten the status of the Treaty and want to threaten the status of te reo, I think he is responsible for carrying the response from Māoridom."

Former MP Hone Harawira
Former MP Hone Harawira Photo credit: Getty Images

Despite a lacklustre speech, it was good Luxon, and other government leaders, fronted to hear from Māori, Harawira said.

Ngāpuhi leader Mere Mangu, who spoke before Luxon and urged calm, said Luxon's prepared speech was not appropriate.

"I was very disappointed that he had a speech that had been written for him that was not appropriate for the occasion and completely didn't hear any of the messaging that had been put across.

"I think he missed a golden opportunity to start the dialogue at least about what we're so concerned about."

There was no need for a first reading of the Bill, she said. "We can have a discussion about what Te Tiriti is about - that's no problem at all - but it does not have to go to the first reading and go through select committee."

In defence of the Prime Minister

Finance Minister Nicola Willis earlier told First Up she wasn't surprised with Luxon's views about how to reflect on the national day remained consistent.

Willis said she had a "lot of conversations with Māori" while up north and a special few days.

"Waitangi it has a special wairua, it has a special spirit to it, you can feel its history, and I find it's a really reflective time whenever I am there."

The Treaty Principles Bill was "certainly was one of the issues that was being debated at Waitangi, but I don't think it was the only issue".

Hīkoi organiser's response

Organiser of the hīkoi from Cape Reinga to Waitangi, Reuben Taipari, said politicians at Waitangi came with prepared speeches and weren't listening to the people.

"It's not even disappointing, because I could almost write you the speech before they even get there," he told Morning Report. "It was actually quite threatening and undermining how politicians spoke to the people."

Hīkoi organiser Reuben Taipari.
Hīkoi organiser Reuben Taipari. Photo credit: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

"They were prepared to continue their undermining policies that are going to reduce Māori participation in the future of this country."

He said the Treaty Principles Bill "shouldn't even even be a debate".