ACT Party wants referendum on co-governance with Māori

Maiki Sherman
Source: 1News

The issue of Māori co-governance is set to be a big talking point at the next election with ACT campaigning for a referendum on the issue.

ACT leader David Seymour.

Revealed exclusively to 1News, party leader David Seymour says it would be a bottom line if forming a Government with National.

"Over the last 40 years a combination of the Waitangi Tribunal, the courts, and successive Labour and National governments have quietly but progressively changed the definition of what the Treaty means," Seymour said.

He believes the Treaty of Waitangi was not a partnership and therefore co-governance arrangements should not be viewed as a necessary extension of that.

"Co-governance is actually exclusive, it creates resentment, and we need to have an open debate about it that is healthy for society."

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer believes the policy is dangerous.

"The main reason that non-Māori or any of us should be concerned with this type of politics is because it emboldens racism, it emboldens white supremacy," Ngarewa-Packer said.

ACT has already been successful on the euthanasia referendum and while National leader Christopher Luxon wouldn't commit to supporting a referendum on co-governance, he did share some concern.

"Even what we mean by the words co-governance it's not clear and so my desire is if you want to lead constitutional change you make your case you make your argument and you take the New Zealand people with you," Luxon said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says her government supports co-governance arrangements with Māori.

"Co-governance has been around and with us and utilised in New Zealand for a number of years and by and large has worked very successfully for us," Ardern said.

If ACT has its way following next year’s election, the party would pass a law defining the principles of the Treaty during the next term of Parliament.

The law would have particular effect on democratic institutions that would only come into effect once a referendum was successful, with Seymour suggesting that take place at the following 2026 general election.

Co-governance is usually part of Treaty settlements and provide Māori a seat at the decision making table. Examples include Te Urewera National Park, the Waikato and Whanganui rivers, and 14 tupuna maunga across Auckland. Māori seats on councils and other organisations are also on the rise.

At the moment Pākehā dominate when it comes to holding power in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith says part of the resistance stems from not wanting to share power.

"Part of this is a frustration that they're being asked to change the systems of power that have privileged and entitled them, that have made them comfortable and think they are entitled to this for all time," she said.

"All country’s innovate in the governance space, you may not see it because it’s often done by legislators themselves and by the courts, but I think in this case New Zealand is unique and it’s unique because of tangata whenua."

Seymour says the public deserve to have a say on the matter.

"We are more than just Māori and Pākehā, we need to embrace all," Seymour said.

"Of course we're a mix of multi cultures but there is only one tangata whenua and our rights and interests will be respected," Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said.