Striking to join Budget hui 'illegal': Luxon

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon. Photo: RNZ
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon. Photo: RNZ
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Labour's Chris Hipkins are both warning people not to break the law during planned protests this week - but some in Labour say it's up to the individual.

Activist groups have been calling for strikes this Thursday as part of a second National Māori Action Day.

In an Instagram post published jointly with Te Pāti Māori, organisers called for all Māori and Tangata Tiriti to go on strike on Thursday and protest the government's polices affecting Māori.

Hikoi are planned throughout the country, including at Parliament.

Heading into his weekly caucus meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Luxon said striking would not be appropriate.

"No. That would be illegal," he said, pointing out it was "pretty clear what the rules are around strike action".

He thought it was "wrong" for Te Pāti Māori to be advising people to take the day off work.

"I think that's entirely wrong, I think - feel free to protest, that's what we have weekends for, but I just say to you: Te Pāti Māori, they're completely free to protest as they want - as long as it's legal and peaceable and lawful.

"But I'm not focused on that, I'm focused on making sure I deliver a Budget for New Zealanders whether they're Māori or non-Māori where they can see they can get ahead."

Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka said he was not concerned about the protests.

"I think Te Pāti Māori and others have a democratic right to lawfully protest and we acknowledge that there are different protesters that come here all the time," he said.

Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka. Photo: RNZ
Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka. Photo: RNZ
Labour leader Chris Hipkins also said he supported people using their right to free speech, but warned people not to break the law.

"I think in terms of any strikes, they need to be in the confines of the law, so there's pretty clear law around when people can and can't strike, it's in the context of bargaining - so I think people need to follow that."

However, Labour's only MP in a Māori seat - Ikaroa-Rāwhiti's Cushla Tangaere-Manuel - said she would personally be attending the protest and if people were choosing to strike it would reflect the strength of their feeling.

"By no means am I a lawyer, but I think if people make that decision that's because of how strongly they feel and how silenced they're feeling," she said.

"We've heard a lot of kōrero in the house about promoting peoples' voice etcetera and yet Māori are feeling silenced."

She said it was nice of Luxon to give Te Pāti Māori the full credit for the protest, but it was "quite insulting to iwi and hapū in my opinion".

"You can see how organised iwi are becoming, and there's no question they should be concerned by this Budget. We've already seen cuts, we already know there's going to be a reduction in investment in kaupapa Māori compared to the $1 billion they received under Labour so they should be worried."

Labour's Māori-Crown Relations spokesperson Peeni Henare said the choice to strike was "up to each and every individual".

"Let's be honest at what's being lost here, what the challenge is. Māori health authority, backwards views on Māori policies are what causes this kind of hurt for people, so they'll make their own choice whether or not they get out to support it.

"We shouldn't be surprised. Big hui at Tūrangawaewae, big hui in Waitangi, big hui at Rātana and a constant vocal voice from Māori leadership that this government is failing our people so I don't know why anybody would be feeling surprised."

Consequences for those who did choose to strike was "up to the employer and the staff", he said.

"So I don't know. But look, a lot of people came out to support the seabed and foreshore protest when that happened - I never heard of anyone losing their job from that.

He would not be at the protest himself, saying "I'll be in here, fighting the Budget in here".