Thanks to Rawiri Waititi, Wearing a Tie Is Now Optional in New Zealand’s Parliament


Since the days of British colonial rule, male politicians in New Zealand have been required to wear a necktie in Parliament’s debate chamber, the New York Times reports. Rawiri Waititi, co-leader of the Māori Party, ditched the mandatory tie on Tuesday and instead wore a traditional Māori greenstone pendant called a hei-tiki. After refusing to wear a tie this week, which he called a “colonial noose,” Rawiri Waititi was asked to leave the chamber. “It’s not about ties — it’s about cultural identity, mate,” he reportedly said on his exit. Today, ties are officially a thing of the past in New Zealand’s Parliament too.

Since getting elected to Parliament in October 2020, Waititi has been vocal about indigenous New Zealanders being able to wear traditional cultural attire in Parliament. (Notably, the tie-and-suit-jacket dress code was deemed “a custom, not a rule,” back in 2017, though it is seemingly still enforced.) Upon his involuntary exit from the chamber earlier this week, he said ties are not part of his culture. “I took off the colonial tie as a sign that it continued to colonize, to choke and to suppress out Māori rights,” he wrote in an op-ed for the New Zealand Herald on Monday, February 8, adding to the related discourse online and the #no2tie hashtag on Twitter. 

In a turn of events, he was allowed to speak in Parliament without a tie on Wednesday. Later that day, NZ’s Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard announced the tie rule would be scrapped for good; they’re now optional workwear. “I am guided by the committee’s discussion and decision, and therefore ties will no longer be considered required as part of ‘appropriate business attire,’” he tweeted on Wednesday. 

This is a small win with monumental meaning, but Indigenous erasure has left a lasting scar that still impacts communities today. Māori people were banned from speaking their native languagete reo, in most schools and communities until the late 1980s, and the Māori people have been stripped of their land for centuries. Just last year, New Zealand’s minister of foreign affairs Nanaia Mahuta was criticized for her moko kauae, which are sacred facial tattoos for women. “Facial tattoos, especially on a female diplomat, is the height of ugly, uncivilized wokedom,” tweeted author Olivia Pierson. (As a result of her comments, Pierson’s books were swiftly removed from an online retailer.)

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand elected its most diverse Parliament last year. Per CNN, almost half of the country’s Parliament is female, and 11% identify as LGBTQ+. The country also voted in 16 Māori lawmakers. According to New Zealand’s official data agency, Māori people make up about 16.5% of the country’s population of 5 million, which is why government representation is key to preserving their rich culture. 

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