12 Sep 2018

NZ First pull support for Labour-led initiatives at last minute

7:57 pm on 12 September 2018

The government was forced to halt a planned announcement about its Crown/Māori Relations portfolio after New Zealand First raised last minute objections.

Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern

Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

It's the latest in a string of incidents where New Zealand First has pulled its support for Labour-led initiatives at the 11th hour.

Media were briefed and invited to attend an announcement by Crown/Māori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday, where the new agency was set to be unveiled following sign-off at Cabinet.

But Ms Ardern and Mr Davis had to roll back the announcement after NZ First refused to support it.

Instead it was used as a symbolic display of the consultation process and brought together Māori leaders who would be pivotal in helping shape the partnership between Māori and the Crown in the future.

NZ First was not at the watered-down announcement with its ministers all claiming to be busy with other meetings.

It's the latest disagreement between the coalition partners.

NZ First pulled the rug out from under Justice Minister Andrew Little in June when he announced his plans to repeal the three strikes legislation.

Since then NZ First has cast doubt on a Labour pre-election promise to lift the refugee quota to 1500 and has also signalled it wants to see changes to the contentious Employment Relations Amendment Bill.

It's understood the lines of communication between Labour and NZ First are still not clear almost one year into the coalition arrangement.

RNZ has been told the two parties are at odds over whether NZ First was properly consulted over such policies.

Mr Davis has been under pressure from the Opposition over what his new ministerial role entailed after a series of hui around the country over the past six months.

After almost a year since he took on the job, Mr Davis would be aware of how crucial it is to get approval for his Cabinet paper that outlines his responsibilities.

But with NZ First long campaigning on one law for all and strongly opposing race-based policies, it was always going to be a tough ask to get the party to commit to a Māori agency having oversight and influence when it came to government decisions.