The Māori and Green parties say the Prime Minister should have attended the Kiingitanga’s national hui but Labour — whose own leader is also not attending — has brushed off concerns.
Thousands of people from iwi across New Zealand are expected to attend hui-ā-motu at Tūrangawaewae marae on Saturday, after Kiingi Tuheitia late last year invited them to “unify the nation and hold the Government to account”.
The hui will start three weeks of events centred on Māori’s relationship with the Crown, with the usual gathering at Rātana on January 25 followed by Waitangi Day.
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon told reporters hewas not planning to attend the hui, saying it was “not actually a political event, per se, it’s actually not for politicians, we are not front and centre in those conversations”.
“It’s an opportunity for Māoridom to come together. I’m very supportive of it, I think it’s a good idea to be able to think about where is Māori going out to 2040 and beyond.”
Māori Development and Māori-Crown Relations Minister Tama Potaka is expected to attend, alongside National’s Northcote MP Dan Bidois.
ACT leader David Seymour confirmed he wouldn’t attend the hui, Stuff reports.
Meanwhile, New Zealand First deputy leader Shane Jones implied his party’s position when he suggested the gathering could end up turning into a “moan fest” earlier this week.
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said Luxon’s personal presence would have shown goodwill.
“It would have been good to see him arrive and show his goodwill, not only to the Kiingitanga but certainly to the kaupapa of the thousands of Māori that are turning up,” she said.
“Just because they didn’t vote for this Government doesn’t give him an out to not understand and support and represent Māori aspirations.
“He didn’t have to be the centre of all the discussions: A good leader listens, a good leader seeks to understand and a good leader then seeks to take that to their caucus and to their government.”
She said Māori would use the event as a chance to unite, but also to “escalate preparation for activation strategies”.
“We have to show the force of our collectivism, the force of our Māori economy, the force of what it is that we will do to protect the rights not only of our tangata whenua today but the rights of our mokopuna tomorrow.
“One of our biggest aspirations is to be a thriving people … and ensure that through our whakapapa te Tiriti is respected. It was an opportunity for him to show goodwill to all Māori.
“Who would not want to be here, we’ve got the world trying to be here, so I think it’s an important opportunity for our growth.”
Green Party Māori Development spokesperson Hūhana Lyndon also said Luxon should have prioritised attending if the issues mattered to him.
“We know what the kaupapa is of the hui — and if it’s a priority for you, you would make yourself available,” she said. “We know we are going, Māori Party and Labour are going, and we want to be there to listen to te iwi Maori in wānanga hosted by the kiingitanga.”
She said the hui would serve more than one purpose.
“To listen and take heed of the key messages of te iwi Māori tomorrow, but also know that there will be a report produced which will be a taonga for our people but also for MPs to take away, capturing the thoughts, the whakaaro, of those who gathered there.
“As a hapū and iwi member, I will also utilise my voice to contribute to the wānanga that will be hosted by the kiingitanga.”
Labour’s leader Chris Hipkins was not expecting to attend, with the party’s Māori caucus showing up instead.
The party’s Māori Development spokesperson Willie Jackson was relaxed about Luxon’s non-attendance.
“He’s already had his meeting with the kiingitanga, hasn’t he?
“So I know that we’ll be there, the Labour MPs will be there, and whether [the Government] are listening or not I don’t know — but the reality is, it’s a significant meeting for Māori and I’m looking forward to it.”
rnz.co.nz with additional reporting from 1News