The Winds of Change

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Thousands hit the streets of New Zealand Tuesday in protest at the new government’s plan to reconsider policies that helped the indigenous Māori community, Al Jazeera reported.

Following a call by the Te Pāti Māori party, protesters gathered in front of parliament in Wellington, as well as on highways throughout the North Island, even as the new legislature elected in October was being sworn in.

The coalition, led by the center-right National Party with the support of the libertarian ACT New Zealand and right-wing populist New Zealand First parties, has decided to roll back affirmative action initiatives, turn Māori names of departments into English, and strip references from a key treaty in legislation.

The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of New Zealand, signed by British colonial settlers and the Māori in 1840, which established equal rights for the Indigenous peoples.

Protesters called the move an “assault” on the Māori that would set New Zealand back decades, while nullifying efforts made over many years toward post-colonial reconciliation.

The leadership, meanwhile, said the changes were necessary to move the country forward. ACT chairman David Seymour criticized Te Pāti Māori’s “divisive theatrics,” while Prime Minister Chris Luxon asked his citizens to give him time to show his government’s commitment to “get things done for Māori and non-Māori.”

New Zealand is in transition after six years of left-wing Labour rule, led by former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Some of her administration’s policies are those that Luxon’s coalition wants to remove.

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