A draft United Nations’ declaration plan has been delivered to the Māori Development Minister but is being held back from Cabinet until some of the recommendations are watered down.

In April, Cabinet ministers gave the green light for the plan to be drafted to lay out how New Zealand would meet United Nations obligations in respect of indigenous peoples’ rights.

The completed draft plan was scheduled to go before Cabinet for approval this month so the rest of New Zealand could then be consulted on the proposed recommendations. Māori were consulted first and the feedback received from the 70 hui across the country was used to inform the proposals.

But on Wednesday, Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson told Newsroom he is delaying taking a paper to Cabinet because he’s not comfortable with about 20 percent of what has been proposed.

“We’re a little bit held up at the moment – we’re working through the process. I want to be able to take the right paper back to Cabinet, otherwise it’s just going to get thrown out,’’ he told Newsroom.

“Language is everything and, in my view, we have to be very careful about this because this is a government response to the declaration.

“What we’ve had before is nothing and now we have an opportunity to get a Cabinet endorsement, but we can’t endorse something that is going to get thrown out or is going to cause an uproar in terms of the public.”

Jackson said the draft plan as it has been delivered to him wouldn’t get past Cabinet, and currently doesn’t meet his expectations either.

“If I’m not comfortable, I’m sure Cabinet won’t be comfortable. There’s a number of areas we agree on but there’s some other areas that obviously we don’t.’’

Jackson wouldn’t go into the specifics of where the differences are because he’s in “good-faith” discussions with the governance group set up to consult and draw up the plan.

“You can imagine some of the wants or asks from them, but as I remind them, it’s not just about them. It’s about what do we want to do as a government and how do we want to honour that declaration and how do we realistically go forward getting people to recognise there are indigenous obligations without them thinking we’re going to take their houses off them.’’

“What we’re up against, is every time we do something there’s almost a threat that there’s going to be a Rhodesian situation on the table,’’ Jackson said.

“You can imagine everything on a wish list they’d want, but that type of wish list could compromise us as a government.’’

“I want New Zealanders to feel comfortable about it,’’ he told Newsroom.

“We have had so much, and yes, we’ve got a gap to make up, but I’m not prepared to risk everything we’ve got for pie in the sky stuff.’’ – Willie Jackson

Jackson said proposals could include, for example, an entirely separate Māori legal system.

“There could be demands like that – well I don’t want that.’’

He said that’s his position and it has nothing to do with any public reaction or concern about what it would mean politically for the Government.

Jackson has been around Māori politics his whole life and says if he has no interest in two separate systems then there’s a decent chance “your average Māori” doesn’t want that either.

“I know what the average Māori will think and they’re not walking around every day thinking about the United Nations’ Declaration of Indigenous Peoples – they’re thinking about their housing, their health, their education.’’

Jackson says if he’s lucky he’ll have a paper to take to Cabinet at the end of July but he’s not going to rush it because it’s important to “preserve what we have now’’.

“We have had so much, and yes, we’ve got a gap to make up, but I’m not prepared to risk everything we’ve got for pie in the sky stuff.’’

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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