WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Thousands of protesters gathered in New Zealand's city squares, motorway over-bridges and in front of the country's parliament on Tuesday to protest the new government's policies that they believe are racist.
The protest action was called for by political party Te Pati Maori and coincides with the opening of New Zealand's 54th parliament later in the day.
"This is not a protest, this is an activation," Te Pati Maori co-leader Rawiri Waititi told Wellington protesters. "Make our voices heard, let our voices fly and be proud to be who we are today."
A new centre-right government of the National Party, New Zealand First and ACT New Zealand was elected last month, and the three parties' coalition agreement outlines plans to wind back the use of Maori language, review affirmative action policies and assess how the country's founding treaty document is interpreted in legislation.
In Wellington protesters marched on parliament, in Auckland they slowed down traffic on the city's motorways and elsewhere they gathered to speak and hold banners.
New Zealand police said there had been traffic disruptions but the protests were peaceful and there were no arrests.
Kathy Hughes, 31, said she had come to the early morning Wellington march because of the concerns around what the new government wanted to do.
"I care deeply about the Kaupapa (principle), worried about lots of things from the incoming government and lots of the changes," Hughes said.
David Seymour, leader of ACT New Zealand, said in a statement that the protest was just theatrics when New Zealanders just want their government to get on with fixing the many issues New Zealand is dealing with.
(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Sandra Maler)