Government is 'den of lions', Kelvin Davis says as Opposition parties arrive at Waitangi

The Government has been labelled "spiders" and a "den of lions" as Opposition parties at Waitangi warned new ministers would do little to benefit Māori

Labour and the Greens arrived at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on Saturday afternoon, ahead of the Government on Monday.

Among those who spoke in front of the marae was outgoing Labour MP Kelvin Davis. He warned the Coalition Government could walk back changes Labour had made.

"If we are not careful, the spiders will consume everything… The den of lions is coming," he said. "We must not speak to them like lambs... The spiders are coming to us on Monday."

Davis' mention of "spiders" is a reference to something Ngāpuhi prophet Te Atua Wera said to his friend Kāwiti, that Pākehā had turned his Treaty into a "spider" to devour the Māori people. He has previously made the reference in Parliament and is not meant to be literal description.

He said the Government will do nothing that will benefit te ao Māori.

Davis also took aim at ACT leader David Seymour for his Treaty Principles Bill, which seeks to define the principles of the Treaty.

He said if he was Seymour, he would have gone to his people to seek approval or disapproval for the legislation.

Despite their disapproval of him, Davis said they leave his mana intact - as he is Ngāti Rēhia.

Government is 'den of lions', Kelvin Davis says as Opposition parties arrive at Waitangi
Photo credit: Jamie Ensor/Newshub.

Seymour has said its necessary to debate and define the principles as for too long it has been left for interpretation by judges and officials.

He has defended his absence from the likes of the Kingitanga's hui and Ratana by saying he doesn't need to go to specific events to engage with Māori.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said the relationship between the Crown and Māori was more than just a "business transaction" and needed to be nurtured all the time.

"I think they should be working with Māori not telling them what's best for them," he said of the Government.

Hipkins said political leaders shouldn't just fly into Northland for a pōwhiri and leave, but spend time engaging with the community.

He said he had vowed to call out racism and race baiting, and he believed New Zealand had seen far too much of it in recent times.

"We will not go forward as a country if we have leaders that try to create a wedge between us."

On the Treaty Principles Bill, Hipkins said it was Government legislation and, as the head of the Government, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon couldn't distance himself from it. Luxon last month handed off responsibility for the Bill to Seymour by making him an associate Justice Minister.

Others like Labour's Peeni Henare also spoke of the "fight" the Government will face in implementing some of its policies.

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson said the "rubbish" Treaty Principles Bill needed to be shut down.

Ngāpuhi's Isaiah Apiata gave the opening speech and said the iwi had heard the call to unity and was the most unified it had been in a while. He questioned where the Treaty will sit in the time of his great-grand children.

Government is 'den of lions', Kelvin Davis says as Opposition parties arrive at Waitangi
Photo credit: Jamie Ensor/Newshub.

It comes ahead of the Government arriving to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on Monday.

Ministers already got a taste of the kind of reception they are likely to receive when they attended the Iwi Chairs Forum in Kerikeri on Friday.

Waikato-Tainui's Rahui Papa sent a clear message, warning Māori would fight back against any "sustained attack" from the Government, including its "unilateral constitutional reform and redefining of Te Tiriti o Waitangi".

Newshub has been told Luxon was very forthright and did a lot of talking at iwi leaders, including on the need to get children back into school.

One of the most contentious Government policies worrying Māori is the Treaty Principles Bill.

According to a leaked draft Ministry of Justice document, the principles would include the Government has the right to govern for all New Zealanders and that the Government would honour "all New Zealanders in the chieftainship of their land and all their property".

The National-ACT Coalition agreement includes the promise to introduce the legislation and pass it at the first reading. However, National hasn't given its support further.

In a speech last weekend, Seymour said the legislation would highlight "we are not a partnership between races".

"We are not people who have to look at our family tree to find out how we fit in. We're all New Zealanders with the same basic rights."

But that's not the Prime Minister's view.

"My personal view is it's a relationship between Crown and iwi, it's akin to a partnership," Luxon said.

Already this year, Māori have gathered for the Kīngitanga's hui and at annual Rātana celebrations.

Despite the debate about the Treaty Principles Bill, which Seymour is responsible for, he didn't attend either. He was at the Iwi Chairs Forum and will attend Waitangi.