The Split

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Thousands of people took to the streets of New Zealand over the past week to protest against the center-right government’s policies, which they say are dismantling Indigenous rights, the BBC reported.

The demonstrations – known as “hikoi” – took place Thursday in a number of cities, including Wellington and Auckland, with participants voicing concerns over policies of the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Chris Luxon since it took power last October.

These were the second such protests against the new government over complaints that officials are attempting to reverse policies benefiting Māoris, such as disbanding a new entity aimed at improving health services for Indigenous people.

Thursday’s protests also came as the governing coalition unveiled its first budget, which includes tax cuts especially hitting housing and conservation, the Australia Broadcasting Corporation noted.

While the opposition Labor Party warned that the budget proposal did not deliver enough in terms of health and education, Finance Minister Nicola Willis dismissed criticism that the plan will cut funding to programs that benefited Māoris.

The new coalition has previously rejected criticism that they seek to divide the country along race.

Even so, the Māori Party – one of the six parties in parliament – issued a Declaration of Political Independence last week and announced it would begin setting up a separate legislature for the Māori.

The party claimed its moves are aimed at transforming the country into a nation that respects the sovereignty of Indigenous people “and creates a safe home for all peoples.”

According to Statistics New Zealand, the Māori make up about 17 percent of the population.

However, they face significant disadvantages compared to the general population in areas such as health outcomes, household income, education levels, incarceration rates and mortality rates, including a seven-year gap in life expectancy, the BBC said.

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