Thousands protest in New Zealand as government reveals budget

Wellington, May 30 (IANS/DPA) Thousands of New Zealanders took to the streets on Thursday in a nationwide protest ahead of the new government’s first budget.

Te Pati Maori (the Maori Party) alongside the Toitu Te Tiriti (Honour the Treaty) called for the protests to demonstrate a unified response to “the Government’s assault” on Maori and New Zealand’s founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Te Pati Maori called for the establishment of a Maori Parliament after the protests.

“Up and down the country, near 100-thousand people have taken part in activation rallies and we have saturated social media networks. We have mobilised our people in a matter of days in a beautiful harmonious activation against this Government,” it said in a statement.

“Seeing Tangata Tiriti (non-Maori) and Tangata Whenua (Maori) as one, which is the true intent of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is exactly what scares the bejesus out of this government.”

“We now begin the process of establishing our own Parliament. Our people will design what this looks like for us, nobody else.”

Police Assistant Commissioner Mike Johnson said officers were monitoring multiple gatherings across the country.

“While there has been disruption to travel in some locations, the participants have been well-behaved overall.”

Johnson said in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, hundreds of vehicles had clogged roads.

Groups were converging in Auckland central, on Parliament Grounds in Wellington, and in many other cities and towns.

“Police are in attendance and are focused on maintaining public safety while recognising the right to peaceful protest,” Johnson said.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis revealed her first budget on Thursday afternoon in Wellington.

“This year’s Budget is the clean-up job New Zealand needs after six years of economic mismanagement,” she said.

“We are welcoming in a new era of careful government spending, lower taxes for hard-working New Zealanders and a strong focus on rebuilding the economy.”

The protests were a follow-up of Te Pati Maori’s Day of National Action in December, in response to the policies of the coalition government.

Since the new government was formed in November, it has overturned some of the anti-tobacco laws introduced by the previous left-wing government, axed the country’s Maori Health Authority and encouraged its ministries to roll back the use of the Maori language.

–IANS/DPA

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