The Government is pushing ahead drafting a blueprint for greater co-governance with the help of key Māori stakeholders. It comes after the controversial He Puapua report went to Cabinet earlier this month, writes political editor Jo Moir.
In 2010 the then-National government signed New Zealand up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
On Thursday Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson will announce at Ngā Whare Waatea Marae in Auckland the initial steps for meeting those obligations.
Newsroom understands the starting point will be targeted engagement with key iwi and significant Māori organisations. Specifically, Māori stakeholders will be asked to help draw up the work plan.
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Those stakeholders, which could include but are not limited to the Iwi Chairs Forum, New Zealand Māori Council and Māori Women’s Welfare League, will draft a plan for Jackson to take back to Cabinet.
It will then be put out for wider public consultation with the rest of the country.
He Puapua is an independent report from the Declaration Working Group – set up in August 2019 by the previous Labour-New Zealand First coalition government.
It was 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.
The group reported back late last year but its recommendations never went any further than then-Māori development minister Nanaia Mahuta’s desk.
She says it wasn’t considered a priority, and then Covid-19 hit, and it was parked to one side.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, who was deputy prime minister at the time, claims it was kept from his party intentionally because of its contents.
He Puapua is wide-reaching in its recommendations, 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.
It proposes significantly expanding the little Māori governance there currently is over people and places, and sweeping changes to co-governance between tangata whenua and the government by 2040.
Some co-governance already exists and has done for years, and in other areas like health it is under development with the Māori Health Authority set to begin operating next year.
There are also examples where tangata whenua have full authority already – as is the case with Te Urewera, which is completely managed by Ngāi Tūhoe.
Why involve Māori?
Willie Jackson has previously pointed out a lot of what is in He Puapua is “not extreme” and is already being progressed, for example, for equal protection of local Māori wards.
But where state systems are letting down Māori, the best way to fix that is to involve Māori in the conversation to help find solutions, Jackson said.
Māori are overwhelmingly represented in negative statistics across health, education, justice, corrections, housing and more.
The argument Jackson has made in recent months in favour of co-governance is to strengthen the voice of those people who need the system to operate better for them.
Newsroom understands the plan to be announced on Thursday will also set up a framework that will help the Government track the progress it’s making in meeting the obligations set out by the UN.
The next stage will then be to define concrete measures to introduce that live up to both the Declaration and commitments under the Treaty of Waitangi.