The Labour leader has accused National of holding a “really radical” view of co-governance that would end a long track record of successful initiatives under successive governments.

Last week National’s Māori Development spokesperson, Tama Potaka, along with other political parties, provided a definition of co-governance to Newsroom.

Potaka said: “Co-governance describes a series of environmental management agreements, mostly set up under Treaty settlements, where the Crown and local government work alongside iwi in a collaborative way to look after the natural resource.”

Potaka went on to tell Newsroom National didn’t support co-governance arrangements proposed as part of the Three Waters reforms “or any extension of what is a useful, limited concept into public services generally”.

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Responding to Potaka on Monday, Chris Hipkins said that definition would put in jeopardy a number of co-governance arrangements already in place, some of which were set up by former National governments.

As examples he pointed to Māori education services like Kura Kaupapa Māori, Kōhanga Reo, and Wānanga, which he says have been “in place under successive governments that have worked very effectively adopting a by-Māori, for-Māori approach where the Crown and Māori share decision-making over the provision of services”.

Hipkins said if co-governance was only viewed through a natural resource lens then “the position that Tama Potaka seems to be advocating is actually a really radical one, because it would mean stopping doing a lot of things that have got a long track record of success”.

Newsroom put Potaka’s “natural resource” framing to National leader Christopher Luxon on Saturday, and asked if Whānau Ora, the health delivery service set up under the former National government and Māori Party, was a form of co-governance.

Luxon said it was an initiative National wanted to do more of, but “we don’t call it co-governance”.

“We just call it delivery of services through Māori organisations to improve Māori outcomes.

“The word, co-governance, has been taken out of context, as I’ve said before, that word was specifically used in the context of Treaty settlements and has been taken and imbued into the delivery of nationalised public services – that is very different,” Luxon told Newsroom.

“The challenge over the last few years is we’ve had a government under Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins who took a word that has some meaning understood to it, and then carried it across the line to something else, and as a result it has lost all New Zealanders and not taken New Zealanders with it.”

Luxon says National believes in, and wants to see more devolution to Māori, but under the “coherence of one public health system”.

As for Labour, Newsroom also asked Hipkins whether Whānau Ora was a form of co-governance, to which he replied, “it’s an example of working together”.

“The reality is co-governance is just one iteration of working together and it means different things in different contexts, and I think it’s a bit of a red herring of a phrase to be honest.”

Hipkins said many New Zealanders heard co-government whenever co-governance was discussed, and he stressed “no one has ever been proposing that”.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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