Politics of Division

Politics of Division

The document – titled He Puapua: The Report of the Working Group on a Plan to Realise the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Aotearoa/New Zealand – was commissioned by Cabinet in 2019 and produced by Te Puni Kōkiri, it sets out a 20-year plan to bring the UN declaration into effect.

It envisages that by 2040 – the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – the nation will be ruled under an equal power-sharing arrangement between Māori and non-Māori leaders.

This report was only released (in a highly redacted form – being 34 out of a total of 123 pages) by the government last October. The report had been complete almost a year before the highly redacted version was released last October.

This report had been highly censored by the government and it wasn’t until a full version was published in March 2021 that the full list of recommendations became known. This degree of censorship and the fact that it had been kept out of public circulation until after the last election makes me suspicious of the intentions of the government in relation to this report.

This report calls for a Treaty based constitution for New Zealand and in parliament on the 14th April the Act Party Leader David Seymour questioned the Prime Minister on why she hadn’t announced her government’s plans to follow its recommendations and whether the government would rule out such a Treaty based constitution as the report called for.

Ardern responded:

 “I’m not quite entirely sure what sits at the core of the member’s question here. We have obligations to report on New Zealand’s compliance with a number of declarations that we have historically been involved in beyond just this term of office.

“If the member is trying to imply that there is anything other than us complying with our obligations there, he’d be most welcome to state that clearly and frankly, because I really question what it is he is implying with this line of questioning.”

In reply to a further question from Nanaia Mahuta, Ardern confirmed that New Zealand had signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples under John Key’s National-led government.

The Cambridge dictionary definition of indigenous is as follows:



used to refer to, or relating to, the people who originally lived in a placerather than people who moved there from somewhere else :

 used to refer to plants and animals that grow or live naturally in a place, and have not been brought there from somewhere else:

not foreign or from outside an area:

Given that Maori have been very explicit about their origins as coming to New Zealand by canoe from Hawaii, under this definition they are not indigenous but just prior immigrants to the European settlers who came after them. The true indigenous peoples of New Zealand were in fact those that inhabited the country prior to the arrival of the Maori.

When questioned further by Seymour whether the government would rule out establishing a Maori Parliament as called for in the He Puapua report, Ardern replied:

“Obviously, we have no intention of making such a constitutional change…”, before adding, “However, we do commit ourselves to making sure that we are upholding our obligations as Treaty partners…”

In her post cabinet media briefing on the following Monday Ardern did rule out a Maori Parliament.

Even so the government’s critics are busy publicising aspects of the report they say have already been implemented by stealth.

He Puapua recommended making it easier to set up Māori wards – and in February the government did just that by overturning the law that meant voters could petition for a referendum to veto a council decision to introduce them.

Labour made no mention of such a law change in its election manifesto, but Ardern pushed the Māori wards legislation through Parliament under urgency, allowing less than 48 hours for public submissions.

He Puapua calls for a Māori-centric version of New Zealand’s history in schools, and there is currently a move to rewrite the history curriculum in line with this recommendation.

He Puapua calls for public education programmes, including conscious and subconscious bias training to deal with structural racism, and this is already being promoted by the Public Service Commission.

He Puapua recommends exempting some Māori land from rates, a notion reflected in the Local Government (Rating of Whenua Māori) Amendment Act 2021 passed in April.

Government critics say these moves are confirmation He Puapua is functioning as an undeclared separatist agenda they believe the government has secretly endorsed.

The Ihumātao settlement last December, when protesters forced Fletcher Building to sell 33 hectares to the government for $30 million, is cited as an example of the same agenda, particularly since the deal was made explicitly outside the Treaty of Waitangi process.

Overall, the impression that the Government is intent on subverting the nation’s institutions and constitutional arrangements by stealth risks severely damaging the government’s long trumpeted virtues of openness and transparency.

He Puapua has never been publicly announced, but a number of recommendations, such as the Māori Health Authority and Māori council wards, have been implemented already without any acknowledgement from government that they are part of a wider plan.

The Labour government needs to explain why they have been implementing He Puapua’s recommendations one by one, without sharing any such wider plan with New Zealanders.

The implementation of the He Puapua recommendations by stealth will only create two systems based on racial division and this will be nothing short of disastrous for New Zealand and its population.

Attempts to racialise New Zealand, is bound to provoke significant public complaint. Government has a duty to uphold the Rule of Law and protect the democratic rights of all New Zealanders.

The implementation of parts of the He Puapua report raises vital issues about what inferences the Crown is allowing and/or encouraging Māori to draw from its recommendations.

Any failure to uphold the equal application of the laws, on the grounds that a separate Māori Health or Justice system will soon replace the long-established principle of “one law for all”, will be taken as proof that this government intends to change profoundly the constitutional arrangements of the New Zealand state.

Such a fundamental change to the manner in which New Zealand is administered, especially one predicated on ethnic and cultural considerations, could have no legitimacy without having first secured the endorsement, by way of referendum, of a majority of New Zealand citizens.

To suggest that the articles of the Treaty of Waitangi in some way obviate the Crown’s need to obtain the consent of the New Zealand electorate before changing the way our country is administered, and by whom, is tantamount to suggesting that the Treaty legally entitles the Crown to extinguish democracy in the Realm of New Zealand without reference to its citizens and in defiance of its laws.

The Labour Government’s silence on these matters is indefensible. A clear statement of its determination to uphold the Principle of One Law for all is long overdue.

Andy Loader