Christopher Luxon says he interprets tino rangatiratanga within Te Tiriti as partnership, not co-governance, and says New Zealand should be governed under one system.
Speaking to Q+A on Sunday, the new National leader said he wasn’t an expert on Te Tiriti and had been on a learning journey about it even before entering politics.
When asked about what he thought tino rangatiratanga meant, and whether he believed in co-governance for Māori and non-Māori, Luxon said: “No, I don’t think the Treaty is talking about [that].”
“I think the way it [co-governance] has been represented to New Zealanders is a separate system.
“We fundamentally need to be very proud of our bicultural founding and starting point and acknowledge a special place for tangata whenua, but we also have to acknowledge we are a multicultural, modern, outward-looking country as well,” he said.
He acknowledged there were examples where Māori-led solutions had led to better outcomes, such as when the Government funded Māori-led, iwi, and community providers to boost Covid-19 vaccination uptake within their communities.
“I’m incredibly open-minded to that [style of governance]. When you look at Māori for Māori solutions, that’s great,” Luxon said.
“What we’ve been talking about, and I think in recent times, has been the notion of co-governance meaning 50-50, separatism.
“I don’t want the country to be divisive. I want the country to be more united.”
He echoed former leader Judith Collins’ use of the term “separate systems” of governance in May in response to the He Puapua report. At the time, multiple commentators said Collins had been trying to recall Don Brash's divisive Ōrewa speech about race relations, which delivered National a short-lived boost in the polls.
Luxon added that within a system that didn’t use co-governance, Māori inequity still needed to be addressed.
When asked if there was equality of opportunity in New Zealand, Luxon said: “No.”
“The reality is there are five-year-olds setting off life in New Zealand, by function of where they were born, in the neighbourhoods that they live in, that actually start well behind the start line.”
To fix that, governments needed to build a more productive economy, invest in education, unleash business potential, and invest in infrastructure, Luxon said.
He said Government agencies also needed to work with people who were in complex lives.
He proposed “targeted, powerful interventions based off need” akin to former Prime Minister Bill English’s style of social investment.
Luxon said concentrating help in that way to those who needed it would end up helping Māori.
He said targeted support should be needs-based, rather than based on ethnicity.