Next steps in action plan for controversial indigenous rights kicks off

By Te Ao - Māori News

Development Minister Willie Jackson has met more than 30 national Māori organisations in an online hui, kicking off the process to develop a plan for New Zealand to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The last National government signed the declaration but took no further action.

The following Labour-New Zealand First government agreed to find out what implementing the declaration would mean but the subsequent report, He Puapua, was never presented to cabinet by then-Māori development minister Nanaia Mahuta, who said that was because it wasn’t a priority and was parked when Covid-19 arrived.

NZ First leader Winston Peters who was deputy prime minister at the time, claims it was kept from his party intentionally because of its contents.

The contents of the report were leaked earlier this year to great consternation because of some of its more radical proposals.

He Puapua is an independent report from the Declaration Working Group designed to assist with recommendations for how New Zealand could meet the obligations set out by the UN, and start a national conversation about New Zealand's constitution and the ongoing role of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Upper House?

He Puapua offers a wide range of possibilities, from proposing a Māori Parliament or upper house, to rates exemptions for Māori freehold land and Māori wards at a local government level.

It also suggests making Waitangi Tribunal recommendations binding, and paying royalties to Māori for natural resources, such as water and petrol.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has maintained ever since He Puapua was publicly released by ACT and the National Party earlier this year, that the report is not government policy.

He Puapua recommended a two-step engagement process and partnering with Māori to develop a plan.

That began yesterday with the online hui.

“The engagement until February 2022, is with whānau, iwi, hapū and significant Māori organisations, and will then be followed by a wider public consultation with New Zealanders on a draft Declaration plan next year,” Willie Jackson said.

Online hui

Te Puni Kōkiri, the National Iwi Chairs Forum and the Human Rights Commission worked together on an engagement strategy that aims to ensure as many Māori voices as possible get to share their views on what should be included in a declaration plan.

Jackson said because of Covid-19 they have had to adapt the engagement to running through online workshops.

“It’s important we have these conversations with Māori as our indigenous people first, and this is what we did with Māori organisations today. It is innovative and pragmatic for these to be online. We don’t want to put our communities at risk and online engagement is the next best thing,” Jackson said.

“Unfortunately, Covid-19 is intensifying the inequity issues Māori already face in areas such as health, housing, justice and education, so it is timely to be undertaking this week.

“Setting a roadmap for how New Zealand is improving outcomes for Māori is a way to deliver tangible results that we can track.”