National | David Seymour

No Tiriti referendum, no government - Seymour to Luxon

Act leader David Seymour is calling for a referendum on co-governance should his party be elected as part of a coalition government with National next year / NZME

A referendum on co-governance would be a 'bottom-line' for a coalition with Act after next year’s election, leader David Seymour says - despite National boss Chris Luxon, ruling out such a vote.

Act released a policy paper on Monday, which wants to eliminate co-governance and says any implementation by a government, should be put to a vote.

“The current government says if we want to right the wrongs of the past, cherish Māori language and culture, and give all New Zealanders equal opportunity, then we must throw out universal human rights in favour of co-government.” Seymour (Ngāpuhi) says.

Dumping the new Māori Health Authority and "reversing race-based policies, such as three waters legislation and resource management law thatrequires consultation based on race’ are among the ideas tabled.

"We are told that ‘one-person-one-vote’ is old-fashioned, and we should welcome a new, ‘enlightened’ type of political system. This new system is a ‘Tiriti-centric Aotearoa,’ where we are divided into tangata whenua, people of the land, and tangata tiriti, people of the treaty,” Seymour says.

“Each person will not have an inherent set of political rights because they are citizens of New Zealand. Instead, they will have rights based on their whakapapa or ancestry.”

While ruling out a referendum, National party leader Christopher Luxon instead questioned if there was consensus on what co-governance was, or how it should work. / NZME

Seymour says co-governance was established when John Key's National government signed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) charter in 2010.

Te Reo Māori scholars argue "tino rangatiratanga" within Te Tiriti o Waitangi translates to ‘self-determination’ in English; although most concede it has been ignored by successive governments.

Under the Labour/NZ First/Greens coalition Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta commissioned a discussion paper on what implementing the UN declaration would mean.

The resulting paper, He Puapua, was left to languish as Covid-19 arrived and was passed on to the next Maori Development Minister, Willie Jackson, in the new Labour government.

Since then the paper has been widely consulted on among iwi and other Māori bodies.

Establishment of bodies like the Māori Health Authority, designed to address inequity within health and disparity in life expectancy for Māori were borne out of the He Puapua articles.

'Divisive wolf-whistles'

Tāne Māori on average die seven years before non-Māori, while wāhine Māori die six years earlier than non-Māori.

Labour's Māori caucus has argued He Puapua may have been a catalyst for honouring articles of the Treaty and the guarantees have always existed, rather than an edict of the UN declaration, which government could simply ignore.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer has called Seymour’s plans "divisive" wolf-whistles "appealing to racists".

Seymour claims Act’s agenda is "truer to the Treaty and our country’s best interests", based on "what works internationally".

“The Treaty guaranteed all people ngā tikanga katoa rite tahi, the same rights and duties. We followed through, in 1893, by becoming the first society in human history to give every citizen the same voting rights,” Seymour says.

He did not refer to Chinese people in New Zealand being denied citizenship and hence voting rights until 1952.

“New Zealand, under the first Labour government, insisted that universal human rights be included in the United Nations Charter, and we eagerly signed up to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which begins with “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

Seymour also did not address Tino Rangatiratanga (article 2 of Te Tiriti) or if he thought a referendum would violate the Treaty as a  constitutional document of Aotearoa.

ACT Leader David Seymour says a co-governance referendum is a 'bottom-line' for governing with National after next year's election. / NZME

“This paper sets out how Act would overturn and replace the obsession with co-government, replacing it with a more liberal outlook that treats all humans with equal dignity,” Seymour said.

The report claims a vote in favour of a referendum would "reorientate the public service" to target need, based on "robust data" instead of "lazy race-based targeting".

Although ruling out a referendum, National leader Christopher Luxon instead questioned if there was consensus on what co-governance was, or how it should work.

"The country's pretty confused as to what we're actually talking about. At the moment it's very unclear,” Luxon said.

"I have concerns about co-governance as it moves from management of local and natural resources into the delivery of public services."

Luxon said talk of any referendum would be unhelpful.

‘Divisive’-  Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says David Seymour’s plans for a referendum on co-governance are about ‘appealing to racists’  / NZME

"I appreciate he's got a view about what he might want to do in his party," Luxon said of Seymour.

National voted against the mandated establishment of Māori wards and has also pledged to roll back three waters reforms, which would see mana whenua given a say in the management of water resources.

Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti (Ngāpuhi) has also pledged to eliminate the Māori Health Authority.

Luxon didn’t elaborate on whether he thought a co-governance referedum was pointless, given National had already pledged to roll back the Labour government’s co-governance commitments.

Responding to Luxon’s comments, Seymour suggested ruling out Act policy before the next general elections wasn’t wise, given National might need to rely on his party’s support, to govern.

"The truth is, you don't get to rule things out before the people vote. Actually, this is a necessary but difficult conversation." Seymour said.

"He just needs to keep an open mind about how he can make New Zealand a better place, and not run away at the first sign of controversy."

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