Race fears push pause on co-governance - Minister

updated By Will Trafford

Amid fears of a racially charged election season, Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson says he's considering freezing the introduction of co-governance reforms for Māori.

"More engagement needs to be done with all New Zealanders, to better develop their understanding." Jackson told teaomaori.news on Friday.

Jackson says co-governance and self-determination are being framed as a central election issue by political opponents, which could divide and inflame race relations.

"What has become clear,is  there is still a lot of confusion about what UNDRIP is about among Māori and non Māori." Jackson said.

National signed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) under John Key in 2010, and Labour has been working to implement it since its 2017 election win but National has since turned on the protocol.

UNDRIP shares themes with Te Tiriti like tino rangatiratanga, and a number of high-profile Māori leaders including late legal scholar Moana Jackson, contributed to drafting the declaration.

In Article 3 UNDRIP recognises indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination, including the right “to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.

ACT leader David Seymour has demanded a referendum on co-governance as part of any coalition with the National party following the 2023 general election. Photo / NZME

ACT leader David Seymour has demanded a referendum on co-governance as part of any coalition with the National party following the 2023 general election. Photo / NZME

Article 4 affirms the right “to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs,” while Article 5 protects rights “to maintain and strengthen their [indigenous peoples'] distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions”.

Article 26 protects whenua. “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired,” the declaration says, while directing governments to give legal recognition to these territories.

Sent back once already

Recommendations drafted by a panel convened to interpret UNDRIP have already made it into government legislation, including Māori seats in local elections and co-governance in Three Waters reforms but those have since been lampooned by the likes of former deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who last month claimed he was lied to about co-governance when he joined forces with the incoming Labour government in 2017, and said he would refuse to work as part of a coalition government with Labour, should New Zealand First be re-elected at the 2023 election.

ACT leader David Seymour has demanded a referendum on co-governance reforms, as part of any coalition with the National party following the next general election.

Former deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters is expected to put co-governance front and centre for the 2023 general election. Photo / George Novak / NZME

Former deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters is expected to put co-governance front and centre for the 2023 general election. Photo / George Novak / NZME

Jackson was given a comprehensive implementation strategy by the panel in June but sent it back to the drawing board, saying some of the recommendations would not meet cabinet approval, let alone find support with the broader public.

Despite the fact he is "impressed with the level of mahi completed" by the board since then, the recommendations aren't where they need to be yet, and neither is cabinet support.

He will present a final recommendation on whether to plough ahead with reforms to the final cabinet meeting of the year, currently scheduled for December 19.

Education and engagement with the public will still 'take place over the course of 2023', regardless of implementation decisions, the minister said.

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