Willie Jackson says he’s leaning towards putting the Government’s co-governance work on hold next year, political editor Jo Moir reports

An election-year halt on co-governance work is the likely outcome when Cabinet meets this month to decide the next steps to fulfil commitments under the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson received the first draft of a declaration plan in June, which was expected to be signed off by Cabinet and then publicly released for consultation with all New Zealanders.

But Jackson wasn’t comfortable with the proposals put forward and knew Cabinet wouldn’t agree to it, so asked the governance group set up to consult and draw up the plan to go back and try again.

‘Tough process’ to get acceptable co-governance plan to Cabinet
* Jackson not ‘comfortable’ with co-governance draft

In the past six months the governance group has continued working to come up with a more palatable version, but Jackson told Newsroom on Monday he was increasingly less convinced it was the right time to be pushing ahead with the work.

“My inclination is that I’m leaning towards putting the work on hold,” he told Newsroom.

Jackson said it would likely be the final Cabinet meeting of the year on December 19 when he makes his recommendation.

Given he will continue to meet with both iwi and the governance group over the next three weeks, Jackson can’t completely rule out recommending pushing ahead with New Zealand’s response to the UN declaration (UNDRIP) if he can be convinced the time is right.

Part of the reason for Jackson’s concern is the ongoing confusion amongst both Māori and non-Māori as to what the declaration is.

He says more engagement is needed with all New Zealanders to better develop their understanding around UNDRIP, which would be done over the course of next year instead of progressing with the plan itself.

Either way, Jackson says a decision on next steps will be made by Cabinet before Christmas and he will communicate that publicly before the end of the year.

Even if a draft declaration plan is signed off by Cabinet this year, it still needs to go out to all New Zealanders for consultation, and then final recommendations and decisions need to be made about how to meet the UN commitments.

It could also require legislation needing to be passed through the House.

The Prime Minister has already ruled out some of the ideas raised during the process, such as a separate Māori Parliament or Upper House.

Those proposals came out of the controversial He Puapua report, which the Government commissioned as a way to start canvassing ideas for the declaration plan.

It’s unlikely any commitments agreed to could be implemented in time for the election, given the delays that have already occurred due to Covid-19 and the minister’s decision not to take the first draft to Cabinet earlier this year.

Jackson says UNDRIP is “important work that must continue” but needs to be explained and understood away from the politicising of the issue that he blames National and ACT for.

ACT leader David Seymour has repeatedly called for a united rejection of the declaration, saying it should never have been signed up to in the first place.

It was the then-National government that signed up to the declaration in 2010 at the urge of its supporting partner, the Māori Party.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon says the Government needs to better define co-governance and what it’s trying to achieve in response to the UN declaration.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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