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Maori meet to discuss response to NZ government plans

Lucy Craymer -

More than 10,000 Maori have congregated on New Zealand's North Island over government plans seen by many Indigenous groups as undermining their rights and status.

Maori King Tuheitia told attendees on Saturday their voices matter, but it was not just talk and a solution was needed.

"But turning up today, we've sent a strong message that has been heard around the world," he said.

"People are watching us."

The centre-right coalition that took office in NZ in October is planning to undo previous government policies, particularly those promoting the official use of the Maori language and seeking to enhance Indigenous living standards and rights.

Critics say these measures represent the most significant backwards step in decades for Maori rights, and some have taken legal action.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon's government says the plans address the concerns of voters, and aim to give equal rights to all New Zealanders.

In December the Maori king called on tribes from around the country to gather at his traditional meeting grounds, or Marae in Ngaruawahia south of Auckland, to discuss a response.

Those gathered attended breakout sessions including discussions on national unity, and the place of the Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The 1840 treaty is NZ's founding document and underpins claims of Maori sovereignty.

"The best protest we can do right now is be Maori - be who we are, live our values, speak our reo (language), care for our mokopuna (younger generation), our awa (rivers), our maunga (mountains)," Tuheitia said.

"Just be Maori - Maori all day, every day.

"We are here, we are strong," he said.

Some politicians also attended the event, but Mr Luxon did not take part.

The prime minister met the Maori king earlier this week and said he was supportive of the meeting.

Lucy Craymer - AAP

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