Politics | Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Act Party leader David Seymour stands by Treaty bill despite fierce Rātana opposition

ACT leader David Seymour

Act Party leader David Seymour is standing by the proposed Treaty Principles Bill, saying it is something all New Zealanders should be able to debate.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning, Seymour said the country “needs to have” a discussion about the Treaty of Waitangi, but also said he does not want to re-write the founding document.

“It’s the Treaty Principles Bill — and that’s a critical distinction. We’re talking about the principles that the courts have been effectively inventing over the past 40 years,” he said.

“They need to be defined democratically, rather than by the courts, the Waitangi Tribunal or the public service; and we want to put a bill up to Parliament to debate it and actually give everybody a say on what our founding document and our constitutional future actually mean.”

Seymour’s latest comments come as demands not to touch Te Tiriti o Waitangi increase among Māori leaders — a message that was pushed at this year’s annual celebrations at Rātana Pā.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon did his best to assure Rātana and other Māori leaders yesterday that he had no plans to amend or revise the Treaty — but also refrained from ruling out National’s support for the Act Party’s bill into legislation.

Seymour did not attend the Rātana celebrations.

‘This is the debate we need to have’

Asked what Luxon has been saying to him in private about the issue, Seymour replied: “If he was saying anything different, I wouldn’t be telling you — but he’s not.

“He’s saying that they will honour their commitment to get it to first reading and subsequent to that, they have no commitment either way — which is what he said in public.”

The Act leader said whether or not the National Party and New Zealand First keep voting for it after it has gone to select committee and after the public has had a say, will very much depend on where the public attitude is at by that time.

“My view is this is the debate we need to have. Those principles need to be democratically discussed and debated — and our starting point is that they’re universal rights for all people to be equal.”

Also speaking on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme, Seymour was asked whether Luxon was misleading the public into thinking that his support would stop at the first reading.

He responded that the PM was being “perfectly open and honest”.

He disagreed that Luxon needed to clarify his stance, saying people “can figure out” from the Prime Minister’s comments that he was not ruling out further support.

He said he also believed that the public’s response would determine whether the bill was progressed.

“I suspect it’ll be a more popular initiative than people currently think and the support will continu,,” he said, before adding that he “could be wrong”.