ACT party wants referendum on co-governance with Maori
The issue of Maori co-governance is set to be a major talking point in the upcoming election, with ACT campaigning for a referendum on the issue.
Revealed exclusively to 1News, party leader David Seymour said it would be a bottom line if he formed a government with National.
“Over the past 40 years, a combination of the Waitangi Tribunal, the courts and successive Labor and National governments have quietly but incrementally changed the definition of what the treaty means,” Seymour said.
He believes that the Treaty of Waitangi was not a partnership and therefore co-governance arrangements should not be seen 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.”
The co-leader of the Maori party, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, considers this policy to be dangerous.
“The main reason why non-Maori or any of us should care about this kind of politics is that it emboldens racism, it emboldens white supremacy,” Ngarewa-Packer said.
ACT has already passed the referendum on euthanasia and although national leader Christopher Luxon will not commit to backing a referendum on co-governance, he does share some concerns.
“Even what we mean by the words co-governance, it’s not clear and so my wish is that if you want to lead constitutional change, you make your case, you make your case and you take the neo-people Zealanders with you,” Luxon said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said her government supports co-governance agreements with Maori.
“Co-governance has existed with us and has been used in New Zealand for a number of years and overall has worked very successfully for us,” Ardern said.
If the ACT has its way after next year’s election, the party will pass legislation setting out the principles of the treaty in the next legislature.
The law would have a particular effect on democratic institutions which would only come into effect once the referendum is successful, with Seymour suggesting it takes place during the 2026 general election.
Co-governance is usually part of treaty settlements and gives Maori a seat at the decision-making table. Examples include Te Urewera National Park, the Waikato and Whanganui rivers and 14 tupuna maunga across Auckland. Maori seats in councils and other organizations are also on the rise.
At present, Pākehā dominates when it comes to holding power in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith says part of the resistance comes from not wanting to share power.
“Part of that is frustration that they’re being asked to change the systems of power that have privileged and empowered them, that made them feel comfortable and think they’re entitled to it forever,” he said. she stated.
“All countries are innovating in the governance space, you may not see it because it’s often done by lawmakers themselves and by the courts, but I think in this case New Zealand is unique and it is unique because of tangata whenua.”
Seymour says the public deserves a say in the matter.
“We are more than Maori and Pākehā, we have to embrace everything,” Seymour said.
“Of course we are a mixture of many cultures, but there is only one tangata whenua and our rights and interests will be respected,” said Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.