4 May 2021

He Puapua report: Government has nothing to hide - Ardern

8:32 pm on 4 May 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the government has nothing to hide over a report commissioned on how to better uphold indigenous rights.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the government wasn't trying to keep the report under the radar. Photo: Dom Thomas

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson has prepared a draft paper setting out the next steps the government could take in response to the He Puapua report, which he says will go to Cabinet soon.

However, ACT and National are crying foul, saying the government has been trying to keep the report and any proposals under the radar.

He Puapua was first given to the government in 2019, but it was the National Party who publicly released it in full at the weekend.

The report 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.

Ardern said there was a good reason the report had not been released prior.

"That did not come back to Cabinet, it had not been approved by Cabinet and it was not government policy.

"That was the reason it had not been released, because it did not have our final sign off and it was not our final declaration plan," she said.

National leader Judith Collins said the government was already implementing plans from the report.

"We've seen the Cabinet papers that have actually been discussed, particularly around the Māori Health Authority and we've saw what happened with the local government situation, neither of which by the way were actually campaigned on or mentioned in the election campaign," she said.

Last week Collins accused the government of separatism in its policies.

But Health Minister Andrew Little, who recently announced the government's plan for a Māori Health Authority, said he had not even read the He Puapua report.

He said Collins' comments around separatism were "just embarrassing in this day and age, that a political leader of a major political party would talk in that way".

"We have major equity concerns with Māori health outcomes. But actually, the Crown has obligations under the Treaty and the principal obligation is partnership," he said.

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

Jackson did not have a date for when the report would go to Cabinet but said it would happen soon.

He said there was a lot in the report about improving equity that was not "at all extreme".

"It's just standard kaupapa that we're doing now that the former government did.

"I mean, there's areas like Māori Parliament that the prime minister has ruled out, we support that."

ACT's David Seymour said the report should never have had to go through the ombudsman to be released.

"I'm hearing more and more anxiety and division and I think the government's approach is actually fuelling it," he said.

"They should just come out and say 'this is the report we are looking to go towards what the UN has said and match its declaration.' If that's the view, then they should come out and say it. I think there would be a much more honest way to have the conversation."

In the House, Ardern said the report was intended to start that conversation.

"I have to say the groundwork for us being able to have a decent conversation about these issues has not been well established by the debate I have seen from members of this house," she said.

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