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The famous red gates of Turangawaewae Marae
The famous red gates of Turangawaewae Marae, where te hui aa motu is being held. (Image: Supplied/ Jeff Evans. Additional design: Archi Banal)

ĀteaJanuary 18, 2024

What you need to know about te hui aa motu, the national unity hui

The famous red gates of Turangawaewae Marae
The famous red gates of Turangawaewae Marae, where te hui aa motu is being held. (Image: Supplied/ Jeff Evans. Additional design: Archi Banal)

Kiingi Tuheitia has convened a hui to hold the government to account. So who’s going, who’s not, who’s speaking and what comes next?

The double vowel te reo Maaori spelling variant, which is preferred by Tainui peoples, is used in this story except for direct quotations and the names of other hapuu/iwi. 

In December, Maaori monarch kiingi Tuheitia published the royal proclamation Te Paki o Matariki to “te iwi Maaori”. It called for a hui aa motu based on kotahitanga (a national unity hui) on January 20 at Tuurangawaewae marae, Ngaaruawaahia. The kaupapa? “Many within te iwi Maaori are concerned about the plans of the new coalition government. Our most effective response will come from working together,” explains Te Paki o Matariki.

Te hui aa motu is a tikanga-based, future-focused, all-ages event for people to koorero and waananga about how to hold the government to account. “Te-Hui-aa-Motu will be a safe space to discuss Taakiri Tuu Te Kotahitanga, Taakiri Tuu te Mana Motuhake – unity together as we strive for self-determination,” states a te Kiingitanga press release. The mana motuhake focus seeks to uphold the interests and rights that “te iwi Maaori have worked tirelessly to achieve” since the 1970s.

Kiingi Tuheitia smiles at the Kiingitanga 165th anniversary event at Tamaki Paenga Hira/Auckland Museum in December 2023.
Kiingi Tuheitia smiles at the Kiingitanga 165th anniversary event at Tamaki Paenga Hira/Auckland Museum in December 2023. (Photo: Kiingitanga Facebook)

Who’s invited?

Despite Te Paki o Matariki being addressed to “te iwi Maaori,” te Kiingitanga chief of staff Archdeacon Ngira Simmonds extends the invitation to all New Zealanders of any ethnicity. At least 3,000 attendees are expected. 

Who’s out?

Of the many groups The Spinoff contacted, only two confirmed they weren’t attending: the Act Party and New Zealand First. Shane Jones explained over the phone that his colleagues have other commitments on January 20. By email, Act said, “Act hasn’t received any official invitations to the hui.” Prime minister Christopher Luxon also won’t be present, instead opting to meet kiingi Tuheitia privately on January 15. 

Who’s in?

Tama Potaka will represent the government alongside Dan Bidois. The latter is the chairperson of the Maaori affairs select committee, and the former holds all three Maaori-related ministerial portfolios. Large contingents from all three opposition parties will also be present – of note, ex-PM Chris Hipkins and the six-person Te Paati Maaori caucus. 

Tama Potaka, National’s Hamilton West MP and minister for Maaori-Crown relations, Maaori development and whaanau ora. Photo: supplied

Hapuu and iwi from across the motu will be there too, including Tainui’s whanaunga, neighbours and political allies. Those roopuu include other Waikato peoples, many Taamaki tribes, central north-island ahikaa, and Coromandel/Hauraki groups. From further afield, Te Tai Tokerau uri will be there, with a large Ngāpuhi contingent leaving Kaikohe at 3am to arrive in time for the poowhiri. Ngāti Wai chairperson Aperahama Edwards confirmed that his iwi will also be present. “We will be attending to tautoko the call of Kotahitanga/unity in upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi and mana motuhake,” Edwards’ told The Spinoff. 

Other influential Te Ika a Maui iwi, like Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Toa Rangatira, have also told The Spinoff they will participate in the hui. As will Te Waipounamu powerhouse Kāi/Ngāi Tahu, led by their kaiwhakahaere Justin Tipa. Tipa explained, “The national hui at Tūrungawaewae represents an opportunity for voices across te ao Māori to come together to discuss issues of importance… We look forward to the opportunity to kōrero with iwi representatives from across the motu.” He added that other Kāi Tahu leaders will accompany him. That includes Te Rūnaka o Ōtākau chair and former Kāi Tahu Treaty negotiator Edward Ellison.  

Some iwi did not respond to The Spinoff’s request for comment.

Who’s speaking? 

After the poowhiri, bishop Don Tamihere will conduct the karakia tiimatanga before Simmonds explains the tikanga (outlined below). Later that morning, the hui will split into five breakout sessions with different speakers – a rangatahi forum, a te reo Maaori me oona tikanga session, a koorero about national identity, a people and economic wellbeing forum, and lastly, a session on Te Tiriti and proposed reforms. Afterwards, a plenary session at the marae aatea allows the whole group to receive feedback from the breakout sessions and iwi to share their whakaaro. Between the plenary and karakia whakamutunga, kiingi Tuuheitia will speak.

The full list of breakout session MCs and speakers is very long, but some notable names include: 

  • Academics, old and young, like Hemi Kelly, Ruakere Hond and Tipene O’Regan
  • Community champions such as Dave Letele
  • Ex-governor general Silvia Cartwright 
  • Former politicians Aupito Sio, Donna Awatera-Huata, Hone Harawira and Jenny Shipley
  • Journalists Julian Wilcox and Mihingarangi Forbes 
  • Musician Rob Ruha
Jenny shipley wearing a purple jacket
Former National party prime minister Jenny Shipley will speak on national unity at a hui holding a government to account which is helmed by her former party. Photo: Diego Opatowski

The tikanga

Te Kiingitanga expects manuhiri to adhere to the following five tikanga:

  • Tumatawhaanui/inclusivity
  • Taiaroha/positivity
  • Whakataikaha/strengths-based 
  • Rangimaarie/peace
  • He ahu whakamua/future-focused

Other protocols include no flags or signs and the expectation that speakers keep their koorero short and to the point. During the plenary, speakers will be strictly timed. Also, it’s recommended attendees travel to Ngaaruawaahia in buses or vans if possible to minimise parking. 

Speaking of parking, where can I park?

There are five parking lots available for public use around Tuurangawaewae, most of which are across the road, and a disability cardholder site in the marae proper.

The site map for te hui aa motu which shows where the carparks are.
The site map for te hui aa motu which, among other things, shows where the carparks are.

Can I bring my tamariki?

Yes, in fact, it is encouraged. Simmonds explains, “all age groups are welcome and need to participate.” To look after attendees who are too young to participate, the local koohanga reo will provide a dedicated tamariki space. 

Is kai provided?

There will be free food (morning tea and lunch) and water stations at the breakout session sites. However, some iwi, like Ngāpuhi, encourage their attendees to bring lunch. 

Can I swim in the awa? 

Tuurangawaewae marae sits on the banks of the Waikato, the Tupuna Awa of Tainui. The kaitiaki are happy for manuhiri to swim in the awa, but be warned that (at the time of writing this) Saturday’s forecast includes rain. 


9.00 am – poowhiri

10.15 am – karakia tīmatanga 

10.30 am – tikanga outline

10.40 am – opening koorero

11.00 am – breakout sessions 

2.30 pm – plenary

4.00 pm – Tuheitia’s address

4.30 pm – karakia whakamutunga 

What’s next?

Following the hui, the Waikato-Tainui College will write a report containing the views shared. “The report written about the hui will also have directives for our future – as decided by us all,” says Simmonds. But te Kiingitanga doesn’t see te hui aa motu and its final report as an isolated event. “Remember this is only the beginning of the kaupapa. Kiingi Tuheitia has committed initially to bringing this kaupapa to Ratana and Waitangi – but, further opportunities may arise.” 

Te Hui aa Motu is from 9 am-4.30 pm on Saturday, January 20 at Tuurangawaewae Marae in Ngaaruawaahia, Waikato. The invitation is open to all. 

This is Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ On Air.

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