Thousands descended on Tuurangawaewae Marae for a mass pōwhiri that required the host to open three entrances on to the marae ātea (forecourt).
The marae is hosting the national hui called by Kiingi Tuuheitia where iwi from all over the motu have arrived to share their concerns over the Government’s policies in relation to Māori, including te reo, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, health, and the environment.
Each entryway had kaikaranga and haka pōwhiri to welcome people through the gates.
The process taking nearly half an hour for people to pack in, with many more left to sit outside in a spill out marquee to watch the whai kōrero (speeches) on big screens.
With a jam-packed schedule and a promise for all to have a chance to voice their concerns in forum sessions, speakers kept an unusually tight timeframe speeches much to the appreciation of those in attendance.
In a whai kōrero opening the debate forums, lawyer Dayle Takitimu offered a blistering warning against the creep of white supremacist attitudes and racism.
She described the current Government as “Treaty-illiterate”.
Former prime minister Jenny Shipley told 1News she felt it was a perfect time for the king to call a national hui.
“So much has changed in the last 30 years, and there’s so much potential in the next 20 years as we move toward 2040. So the concept of national unity, while it’s elusive, it’s an enormously important ambition and the speakers explain what they thought it would take to get to a point of national unity.”
Activist and artist Tame Iti told 1News that he attended the hui to support conversations and that different voices needed to be heard.
“You’ve got a whole new generation of kohanga reo kids that didn’t experience the trauma my generation had to go through. Let them lead this kaupapa, and we’ll support them.”
Former NZ First and National MP Tau Henare told RNZ the vibe at the hui was positive.
“It’s happy, but it’s about being where it started, so thank you to the King for calling the hui because I think there’s between 8 – 10,000 people here. It is absolutely amazing.”
“[That’s] about kotahitanga, that’s about unity, that’s about bringing people together to offer some solutions.”
People attending had a variety of differing reasons for being there, he said: “But if we focus on the real reasons – the real reason is because of the government. If the government hadn’t been so anti-Māori we wouldn’t be here, we’d be doing what we do on a normal Saturday.
“Some governments try it on — so big thanks to Luxon, Seymour and Winston,” Henare said.
The Government should expect more clear demonstrations of Māori opposition, former Te Pāti Māori president Tukoroirangi Morgan told RNZ.
“Our people will gather in their droves in an attempt to send a message to this Government that the racist policies are totally unacceptable, and should be refuted and opposed completely and totally.
“There are values like respect, equity and fairness … what we’re saying to Christopher Luxon is that, actually, Māori will never go quietly into the night — we’re here in our thousands.”
Morgan said the hui was not something the Prime Minister should have attended, but was a place for the King and Māori to have their own discussions.
He said Luxon would be better served by attending Rātana and Waitangi Day events in the coming weeks.
Five breakout sessions were held before a Plenary Session brought everyone back together for discussions.
Kiingi Tuuheitia is due to give his address at 4pm this afternoon.