4 May 2021

Draft cabinet paper on future of He Puapua report revealed

2:44 pm on 4 May 2021

A draft Cabinet paper has been prepared setting out the next steps the government could take in response to the report on achieving the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The government-commissioned report, He Puapua, suggested a separate Māori Parliament or upper house, separate court and justice systems and Māori ownership of foreshore and seabed, as well as recommendations on cultural rights and equity.

In 2019 it was handed to Nanaia Mahuta, who was Māori Development minister at the time, but it was never signed off by Cabinet.

The ACT Party has now revealed Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson received three papers last month about the report, including a draft Cabinet paper for feedback.

The three papers were discovered through written questions from the ACT Party to the minister:

  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: draft Cabinet paper for feedback;
  • Aide Memoire background info and talking points on draft declaration plan Cab paper for meeting with DWG and IMM; and
  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Next Steps for a Declaration Plan - lodging Cabinet paper and draft talking points

ACT has also revealed a submission made by the government to the UN in August last year that stated the government is committed to creating a declaration plan to implement the Declaration's objectives and goals.

"Aotearoa New Zealand is committed to being among the first states to create a plan to implement the Declaration," the document said.

ACT leader David Seymour said the He Puapua report represented a "significant and serious departure" from the idea that all New Zealanders were equal.

"The prime minister has batted away questions about He Puapua calling legitimate opposition questions 'politics' but that's clearly not the case.

"If we're going to have a constitutional conversation it needs to be out in the open and not hidden the shadows. Jacinda Ardern seems intent on keeping any sunlight away from this important issue," Seymour said.

Claire Charters

Claire Charters. Photo: University of Auckland

Aotearoa Centre for Indigenous Peoples and the Law co-director Claire Charters was part of the working group that wrote He Puapua and yesterday said that officials had recently been working with the group quite closely.

"We've been in conversation since the end of last year and throughout this year about how to move it forward," Charters said.

When asked for the government's position on the report, Ardern yesterday said it had not been presented to Cabinet, so it was yet to decide.

The National Party signed New Zealand up to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when it was in government in 2010. Not a lot of work had gone on in that space since, Ardern said.

"The next step for us is what is the public consultation going to look like around that forward plan for us upholding our obligations now that the National Party as government did sign us up to it.

"The report that has been put forward ... has been received by the minister, it has not gone before Cabinet and does not necessarily represent the views of Cabinet. But we do have an obligation to look at what does implementing this declaration mean for New Zealand and we'll undertake that process - and very openly."

Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins

Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ

Ardern has already ruled out establishing a separate Māori Parliament.

The government never released the full report publicly but an unredacted version was leaked to the National Party which published it at the weekend.

In a speech at National's Northern regional conference at the weekend, party leader Judith Collins called it "divisive" and accused Labour of trying to sneak through a plan for separate systems for Māori at all levels.