Fact-check of Sky News Australia segment warning of ‘apartheid’ in New Zealand

Fact-check of Sky News Australia segment warning of ‘apartheid’ in New Zealand

Sky News Australia host Andrew Bolt has warned of “apartheid” in New Zealand, pointing to the controversial He Puapua report and Three Waters reforms – but many of the claims are questionable. 

© Image – Sky News Australia screenshot; Video – Newshub Watch Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson’s speech on the next steps in developing a national plan to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand; she has been the poster child of the left for a couple of years now. But what she is doing to New Zealand actually amazes me; in fact, it scares me,” Bolt says in the segment

“Be warned: this is where woke politics is taking us all – to a form of apartheid.”

In the segment, Bolt introduces Dr Muriel Newman, who he describes as a former business representative, a former politician and now head of the think tank the New Zealand Centre for Political Research. 

She was an ACT MP from 1996 until 2005.

A fact-check of the claims

“The Māori population of New Zealand is about 16 percent and that includes people who also have European ancestry,” said Bolt. 

  • Fact-check: This statement is accurate. The Māori population of New Zealand is about 16.7 percent, according to Stats NZ. 

“But Ardern’s Cabinet commissioned a report which sets out a 20-year plan to have New Zealand essentially ruled 50-50, on race grounds, Māori and non-Māori,” Bolt adds. 

  • Fact-check: The He Puapua report he refers to contains ideas about Māori “self-determination”, not Maori taking control of half of everything in New Zealand. 
  • Fact: The report recommends a partnership between Maori and the Government which would be a 50-50 level of governance. So this statement is obfuscation at its political best.
  • The report states: “It is important to emphasise that under a rangatiratanga Māori model, Māori are seeking authority to determine their own destinies, rather than to regulate all people in Aotearoa.”
  • Fact: Maori under this report if it is enacted in its entirety would be 50% of government and therefore they would actually end up regulating all people in NZ. Again this reply in regard to regulating for NZ whilst it is not wrong it does not tell the full tale.
  • The 123-page report contains a series of aspirational steps from 2019, when it was first presented to the Government, to 2040 – the 200 year anniversary of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi. 
  • Fact: There are steps in the report that have already been enacted and whether they are aspirational or not they are in fact recommendations to the government for actions to be taken to address what the report writers saw as needing to be taken under the UN Declaration. This fact check does not provide any further information to the debate just more talk with no substance.
  • Some suggestions in the report are very ambitious, such as a separate Upper House in Parliament for Māori, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ruled out. 
  • Fact: While the Prime Minister ruled out a separate Parliament for Maori the fact that there are many other ambitious statements in the report and some of them have already been actioned, is not mentioned. Again a case of not telling any untruths just not telling all the truths to skew the debate in favour of the writer.
  • The report outlines a “roadmap” to achieve “Vision 2040” – a realisation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which New Zealand signed up to in 2010 under former Prime Minister John Key’s leadership. 
  • Another statement included in the debate that is solely there to cloud the debate and does not mean anything in this context.
  • The Government commissioned the report in 2019 as a response to New Zealand signing the UN declaration. The He Puapua report is not Government policy. The Government is currently consulting on some of the ideas. 
  • Fact: Again this statement outlines why this report was commissioned but then fails to tell the full truth by omitting to state that whilst it may not be government policy the current government has already enacted many of the recommendations. It also fails to mention that the consultation that has been carried out so far has only been between Iwi, Local Councils and government with no public consultation undertaken. 

“Ardern has already created a new Māori Health Authority, the first step to a divided health system – divided by race,” says Bolt. 

  • Fact-check: It is true that a Māori Health Authority is being established, as part of the Government’s $486 million plan to create a new organisation, Health NZ, to replace the 20 District Health Boards (DHBs). 
  • What this statement fails to say is that the set-up of the new Maori Health Authority also gives Maori the power of veto over decisions made in respect of the total, Health Budget and that the establishment of the new Maori Health Authority is in actual fact division by race as reported. 
  • The Māori Health Authority will work in partnership with Health NZ to commission care across the country, ensuring the needs and expectations of Māori are met. 
  • The interim Health and Disability System Review report in 2019 found Māori have “not been served well by the system”, and the “system overall has not delivered Māori health and wellbeing outcomes that are fair”.  
  • A Māori Health Authority is mentioned in He Puapua, and National leader Judith Collins accused the Government of introducing recommendations by “stealth”. 
  • Health Minister Andrew Little claims the He Puapua recommendation did not influence his planning, because he hadn’t read it
  • Fact: Many of the recommendations in the report are being considered and some have already been enacted such as the new Maori Health Authority. The fact that this report was kept secret up until just recently and one of the recommendations around Maori Health care had been enacted prior to it becoming public knowledge supports the claim by the Leader of the National Party that this government is introducing the recommendations by stealth.

“Can you tell us about this plan? Because the amazing thing to me is there’s been so little debate in New Zealand about what seems to me a very clear plan for apartheid in your country,” Bolt asks. 

“Well, you’re right Andrew It was introduced under the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples, so it was a plan to implement that into the national agenda, if you like,” Newman replies. 

“What came out of it was in fact He Puapua, which is a plan for tribal control by 2040, which is the 200-year anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. 

  • Fact-check: The He Puapua report does not suggest Māori taking control of half of New Zealand. It contains ambitions for Māori “self-determination”, “which we understand to be Māori control over Māori destinies”.
  • Fact: The report recommends that Maori govern in a 50 – 50 partnership with the current government and this fact makes the above statement wrong in fact as this type of 50 – 50 arrangement is not just Maori control over Maori destinies it is Maori being given 50% control of the decision making for the whole of the country which is a very different thing.
  • An example of this is Whānau Ora, a health initiative introduced under the previous National-led Government, which is driven by Māori cultural values
  • Fact: The Whanau Ora initiative is nothing like the recommendations that have been enacted from this report and this statement is just another blatant attempt to cloud the issue.

“That report was produced in 2019. But the Government kept it secret, even from their coalition partner New Zealand First, for the whole of 2020,” Newman says. 

“Then the election came along and they kept it secret, and now that they have total power, total control, they are implementing it at speed, and it is extremely frightening because most Kiwis have no idea what’s going on.”

“They see changes every day and wonder what on earth is driving it and unfortunately we’re in a situation where the Government has spent $55 million on a public interest broadcasting fund which is something that the media can apply for to get grants and one of the conditions of doing that is they have to, if you like, speak out in favour of this Treaty partnership agenda,” Newman says. 

“You’ve raised so many things here that really disturb me,” Bolt says.

“You say this is to mark the anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi. As I understand it, the Treaty of Waitangi was Māori tribes who had been decimating each other in war, coming together to say to the British, ‘we accept British sovereignty. And now, to mark the anniversary, you’re going to undo all that by having 50-50 after all. It just doesn’t make sense.”

  • Fact-check: British sovereignty was proclaimed on May 21, 1840. The Treaty is an agreement, in Māori and English, that was made between the British Crown and about 540 Māori rangatira, or chiefs. 
  • Because there were two versions of the Treaty – in Māori and in English – there has been endless debate about how the articles are interpreted. 
  • In the English version, Māori gave sovereignty to the British Queen. Sovereignty means absolute and total control of everything. So, in the English version, Māori gave the British total control of the country. 
  • The Māori word ‘rangatiratanga’ is similar to ‘sovereignty’. But the Māori version did not say they would give ‘rangatiratanga’ to the British. It said Māori gave ‘kawanatanga’ to the British, which in English means ‘governance’. 

“It doesn’t make sense to Kiwis either,” says Newman. “The reality is that the Treaty brought equality – equal rights for all New Zealanders and that is the way this country has developed.”

  • Fact-check: The term ‘equality’ is questionable. Māori have worse outcomes than non-Māori across almost every measure. Māori have a life expectancy more than seven years lower than non-Māori. 
  • It’s also questionable to suggest Maori were treated equally to non-Maori when New Zealand saw an era of societal segregation. 
  • An Auckland University paper published last year looked into the era of segregation in New Zealand with a focus on Pukekohe from 1925 to the early 1960s. During that period, Māori were segregated in society so as not to offend Pākehā.  
  • Māori were forced to sit in designated sections of the cinema, were denied taxi rides and forced to stand for white bus passengers, and were only allowed to use the school swimming baths on Fridays, after which the dirty water was changed.
  • Dr Claire Charters, a member of the He Puapua working group commissioned by Te Puni Kōkiri, advocates for what’s called substantive equality, which is ensuring disadvantaged people aren’t just treated the same – but that the outcomes are equitable.

“There’s been a strong movement, I guess, from sovereignty activists that sort of arose in the 80s, but somehow over recent years they’ve managed to march into many institutions in New Zealand and take over some positions of power,” says Newman. 

“They’ve marched now into Government, and as I said, because the Labour Party doesn’t need a coalition partner anymore under our MMP electoral system, it means that the Māori caucus actually has a lot of control over Cabinet.”

  • Fact-check: It’s true there is more diverse representation today. New Zealand’s 53rd Parliament is the most diverse in history, with nearly 50 percent of the 120 seats held by women, 11 percent LGBTQI representation and 21 percent Māori MPs. 
  • It’s also true that Labour does not need a coalition partner after it won a majority at the election, the first time this has happened under the MMP electrical system. Labour’s Māori caucus is the largest ever, with 15 members. 

“You mentioned the Māori health system or the Māori Health Authority, which will end up with the right of veto over the whole health system,” says Newman. 

“We’re fighting a battle against Three Waters, where the Government’s got this plan to centralise control of water services – that’s wastewater, stormwater and freshwater – take it away from councils, and centralise it in four authorities and they’ll be half controlled by local iwi,” says Newman. 

“That’ll give them essentially the right of veto over water in New Zealand.”

  • Fact-check: This is not true. 
  • National leader Judith Collins raised concerns about the ownership structure of the four publicly-owned entities to take responsibility for water, after she was leaked a proposal to transfer 50 percent of publicly-owned water assets in the South Island to Ngāi Tahu ownership.
  • Ngāi Tahu said it was “not proposing ownership” of water assets, and that the diagram Collins was leaked showed one option proposed by independent consultants that was not pursued by the iwi. 
  • The Government has confirmed the four entities will remain in public ownership.
  • Fact: The “Three Waters Reform Project” proposes to take all of the assets currently under local government control and put them into four entities that will provide all services related to the three waters (stormwater; Sewers & Freshwater). These entities will be governed by boards appointed with 50% of the board members being Maori and the other 50% being of other races maybe even Maori (which would then give them more than 50% representation by race). There are also many other requirements for these boards to take into account Maori spiritual connections to the three waters. The fact that the government states that the assets will remain in public ownership is just another case of obfuscation on a grand scale. The original owners were in fact the ratepayers of the local authorities who have paid for these assets over many years and generations. These owners will not have any form of decision making power, nor will they receive any type of remuneration from those assets and this does not equate to ownership by definition. 

“All this is going on without an open debate,” says Newman. 

“It’s going on secretly. I mean, we’re sort of picking up on it but we’re small voices trying to warn the country that this is underway and they should be aware of it and if they don’t like it they should damn well speak out about it.”

  • Fact-check: The Government is currently consulting with Māori on proposals mentioned in He Puapua, before engaging with the wider public. It’s been reported a preliminary document for public discussion will be announced by the end of the year. 
  • Fact: Government have consulted widely with IWI but not with the owners of these assets that are proposed to be taken from them. Government has had consultants working on the details of these proposals for a long time yet they have not seen fit to consult with the actual owners of those assets that they are proposing to seize (the ratepayers).

“I simply don’t understand why there’s not a debate,” says Bolt. “Even if you were a journalist who loved all this, 50-50 go out there and talk about how good it is, you look up stories about this, I find almost nothing.”

  • Fact-check: A quick Google search found a plethora of stories about He Puapua and Three Waters. It even sparked a debate in Parliament earlier this year for the entire country to see.
  • Fact: Again this statement while true (there are many stories out there that can be found if you go and search for them) does not take into account the time frames and also the fact that there has been nothing in the public media about these proposals up until the report was leaked. This statement also makes a big thing about the fact that there was a debate in parliament earlier this year for the whole country to see, yet the news media outlets have almost completely blacked out any coverage of this reform project with commentary in opposition to the proposal being nearly non-existent. Without coverage in the general news media outlets the majority of the population have seen and heard very little regarding the proposals.