17 Aug 2018

Minister for Crown/Māori Relations still without job description

6:17 am on 17 August 2018

Ten months after the government named Kelvin Davis the Minister for Crown/Māori Relations, it is still unclear what his job is.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis at the announcement.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The government is heading to Ngaruawahia this weekend to attend celebrations for the Māori King but the prime minister will not be there. Questions are being raised about how stable the relationship between the Crown and Māori really is.

Mr Davis' job was dreamed up without a description - he was supposed to fill in the blanks by last month.

But after a series of hui around the country, there is no update.

Mr Davis said he would take a paper to Cabinet in the next couple of months and he was not bothered by the delay.

"We want to take our time to get this right. The relationship between the Crown and Māori has been fraught for some time so we've got to make sure we do it once and get it right."

National Party MP Scott Simpson said it was unacceptable that it would be almost a year before Mr Davis' responsibilities were made clear.

"Frankly it's appalling, and for them to be in this situation now, not only after ten months but going onto a full year, just speaks about the chaos, uncertainty and lack of direction this government is pursuing in a whole range of areas."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Mr Davis would come into his own in a post-Treaty settlement era.

"I think our relationships are strong and are only being enhanced by the work, for example, by the likes of Kelvin Davis.''

The office of the Kīngitanga, the Māori King movement, jumped the gun yesterday morning when it put out a statement that said Ms Ardern would be welcomed onto Tūrangawaewae marae on Sunday.

Eighteen minutes later and the press release was being recalled and Ms Ardern confirmed she would not be attending.

RNZ understands the organisation of King Tuheitia's twelfth anniversary of his coronation was in such disarray that up until the eleventh hour it was unclear whether Ms Ardern was even welcome, so a decision was made to send senior Māori ministers in her place.

King Tuheitia has form when it comes to criticising the Labour Party after he threw his support behind the Māori Party two years ago and declared he would never vote Labour again.

Since then Labour has knocked the Māori Party out of Parliament and reclaimed all seven of the Maori seats.

Adding further fuel to the fire that not all is well between the Crown and Māori is the Iwi Chairs Forum's rejection of the government's freshwater advisory group, Kahui Wai Māori.

Environment minister David Parker announced the new group at a meeting with iwi leaders two weeks ago but a spokesperson for the forum, Tina Porou, said they had pulled out because of a lack of engagement.

"This new vehicle really doesn't given a sense of a Treaty partnership - we didn't collaborate on it and in fact all the appointments will be made only by the Crown."

Mr Davis denied the breakdown in relations with Iwi Chairs was reflective of deeper divisions between the Crown and Māori.

"We've got very strong relationships with Māoridom. The Iwi leaders believe they should have preferential treatment over other Māori groups and we say we need to consult and that's the feedback we've received throughout my Crown/Iwi engagement hui,'' he said.

Tūrangawaewae marae has, for the first time in history, put a blanket ban on media covering anniversary celebrations.

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