No back down on Māori issues - Ardern

By Will Trafford

PM Jacinda Ardern says the government won't back off on Māori issues. / TeAoMaori.news

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says her government won’t be backing down on advancing Māori issues, even if  National frames co-governance as central to the 2023 general election.

“You know, you've got to be able to sleep at night, knowing that you've done your best and you've done what you've believed is right,” Ardern told TeAoMaori.news

The Māori Health Authority, Three Waters and Māori seats on councils were achievements Ardern said the government was proud of in 2023.

The prime minister said she was ‘comfortable’ the government was doing its best to fulfil obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

“We haven't been perfect. But I am comfortable with what we've tried to do to make sure that we are fulfilling our obligations as the Crown, that we're fulfilling our Treaty obligations”.

Ardern said the 6.8 per cent Māori unemployment rate was something the government was proud of, although conceding homeless families living in motels still needed tackling.

Tough 2022 year

“I don't want anyone living in a motel. I want someone in a warm, dry, safe environment. But I also don't want people living in cars. And so this has been a transition for us while we build more public housing, and we are," she said.

Reflecting on 2022, Ardern conceded it was another tough year, singling out the vaccination mandate protests on Parliament grounds as her biggest challenge.

Ardern said the protests were agitating for many in Aotearoa who saw vaccination as key to reopening the country.

“For New Zealand, I think it deeply affected people,” Ardern said.

There were moments she thought about talking to the protestors but a previous attempt during a government walkabout with vaccinators that was scuppered by protestors prevented that.

“I did stop and try and have a conversation with the people there. And what became clear to me is that the starting point for that conversation was so different for me, and then that was very hard to cut through,” Ardern said.

“I had a practice in the past of talking to protesters in fact. I remember very early on the DPS [the PM security team] having to learn, that was part of the way that I was going to do the job.”

2023 agenda

Ardern was asked about comments from Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson that he would be pumping the brakes on co-governance initiatives set out by the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous people (UNDRIP), signed by the National government in 2010, because several recommendations wouldn’t fly with certain cabinet members.

‘Why is it someone in cabinet is ‘not comfortable’ with co-governance? And should someone be in the cabinet if they’re not comfortable with co-governance?’ Ardern was asked.

“From what I've seen, I don't believe I would not characterise his comments in that way,” Ardern replied.

“What he’s talking about are some of the thoughts and debate around the UN declaration, the next stages of ensuring that we are doing our bit, as yes, the National government signed us up and then did nothing, and left us to figure out ‘how do we fulfil our obligations?’

“What he's [Jackson] talking about is through that process, there's been a lot of ideas. Some of them, we can confidently say New Zealand already does, others, which are challenging. So he's broadly discussing the next steps.”

Ardern said as she looked ahead to the 2023 election, she had no interest in fighting it on race, saying she would campaign on the government’s record.

“When there's change… People will sometimes be confronted by that, and it's our job to try and bring people with us, but that will sometimes be challenging,” Ardern said.

“Our record is growing Māori housing. Our record is growing Māori employment opportunities. Now our record is growing the Māori economy. I will happily campaign on our record.”
 

Public Interest Journalism, funded through NZ On Air