Indigenous New Zealand MP censured over parliament haka protest

Rawiri Waititi’s stance came after ongoing debate among MPs about the government’s plans to set up a new Maori Health Authority.

Rawiri Waititi speaks in parliament in Wellington, New Zealand
Rawiri Waititi speaks in parliament in Wellington, New Zealand

An Indigenous New Zealand MP has been thrown out of the parliament’s debating chamber for performing a Maori haka in protest at what he said were racist arguments.

Rawiri Waititi’s stance came after ongoing debate among MPs about the government’s plans to set up a new Maori Health Authority as part of sweeping changes to the healthcare system.

Some conservative MPs have said the plan is separatist. Mr Waititi, the co-leader of the Maori Party, said those arguments amounted to racist rhetoric.

Mr Waititi told MPs in the chamber that he was forced to listen to a “constant barrage of insults” directed toward Indigenous people.

Rawiri Waititi, centre, performs a Maori haka in parliament in Wellington, New Zealand
Rawiri Waititi, centre, performs a Maori haka in parliament in Wellington, New Zealand (Thomas Coughlan via AP)

If that kind of attitude was acceptable, he said, “then I find this house in disrepute”.

Speaker Trevor Mallard then told Mr Waititi to sit down – but instead he performed the haka, a traditional dance or challenge accompanied by a chant.

Mr Mallard told Mr Waititi to leave the chamber – which he did, along with his party’s other co-leader, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

It is not the first time Mr Waititi has clashed with Mr Mallard.

In February, he won a battle against wearing a tie in Parliament, ending a longstanding dress requirement for men that he described as a “colonial noose”.

Mr Mallard also threw out Mr Waititi from the debating chamber during that dispute after Mr Waititi showed up wearing a traditional pendant around his neck called a hei tiki.

Rawiri Waititi, right, leaves parliament's debating chamber after performing a Maori haka in Wellington, New Zealand
Rawiri Waititi leaves parliament’s debating chamber after performing a Maori haka (Thomas Coughlan via AP)

But Mr Mallard backed down the next day, saying neckties would no longer be compulsory, after a committee of MPs came out in favour of ending the requirement.

Mr Waititi’s latest stance is not supported by all Maori MPs.

After Mr Waititi left, Labour Party deputy leader Kelvin Davis pointed out the relatively small support base for the Maori Party.

“Don’t ever think that a party that gets 1.2% of the vote actually represent the views of Maoridom,” Mr Davis told MPs.

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