24 Nov 2023

What does the new government mean for Māori?

5:09 pm on 24 November 2023
NZ First leader Winston Peters, National Party leader Christopher Luxon and ACT Party leader David Seymour at the formal signing ceremony on 24 November, 2023.

Winston Peters, Christopher Luxon and David Seymour at the formal signing ceremony. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

A referendum on the Treaty of Waitangi could still be in play in the new coalition government agreement.

National, Act and NZ First have agreed to support a Treaty Principles Bill up to the Select committee process, but it is unclear whether it will make it to a referendum or not.

The bill, if passed, promises a comprehensive review of all legislation, aside from full and final Treaty Settlement Acts, with the aim of removing existing references to "the principles of the treaty of Waitangi" from law.

A 15-page coalition agreement between the NZ First Party and National said it would replace such references "with specific words relating to the relevance and application of the treaty, or repeal the references."

ACT's Treaty referendum policy attracted widespread controversy during the election campaign and has been criticised by some as being as divisive as the 1981 Springbok tour.

The agreement on the Treaty Principles Bill is part of a raft of policies that will influence and shape the landscape for iwi, hapū and whānau Māori over the next three years.

Ministerial appointments

National Party MP Tama Potaka

Tama Potaka Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

First term National MP Tama Potaka has been named Minister of Māori Development, Minister for Whānau Ora and Minister for Māori Crown Relations/Te Arawhiti, a portfolio that was created following the 2017 General Election and is responsible for ensuring that the Crown honours its settlement commitments with Māori.

National's Paul Goldsmith, a list MP based in Epsom, has been named Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, responsible for overseeing Treaty Claims and Settlements.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon said Goldsmith, who previously worked at the Waitangi Tribunal, would fill the role effectively.

National's most senior Māori MP, Dr Shane Reti, becomes Minister of Health and Minister for Pacific Peoples.

Act's Karen Chhour will be Minister for Children, a role which oversees Oranga Tamariki. She will sit outside the Cabinet.

NZ First's Shane Jones returns to the position of Minister for Regional Development, which he held from 2017 to 2020.

NZ First leader Winston Peters will be Deputy Prime Minister for the first half of the parliamentary term. He has also been named Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for Racing.

Te Aka Whai Ora axed

The Māori Health Authority, Te Aka Whai Ora, will be abolished, 16 months after its establishment in July last year.

Currently Māori die seven years younger on average then non-Māori. That seven-year gap is one of the reasons the previous Government set up the Māori Health Authority, whose job is to commission Māori health services, achieve equitable outcomes for Māori and monitor the performance of the publicly-funded health system.

Pre-election, National suggested that it would replace it with a "strong Māori health directorate inside the Ministry of Health".

ACT leader David Seymour has previously called the Māori Health Authority an example of racial discrimination, saying services needed to be provided based on need, rather than ethnicity.

A review of Te Aka Whai Ora undertaken in March 2023 found there were a number of key issues within the organisation relating to recruitment, underspent budget and planning issues.

Other issues affecting Māori and Pacific people

In their coalition agreement, ACT and National have committed to examine Auckland University's Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme (MAPAS) and its Otago equivalent, with the aim of determining its effectiveness.

The University of Auckland scheme aims to provide Māori and Pacific students studying in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences with admission, academic and pastoral support. The scheme sees 30 percent of entries into the faculty allocated to Māori and Pasifika students.

The new government will also repeal the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Act 2022, which currently allows Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to appoint up to two members of Canterbury Regional Council.

All three parties have agreed to restore the right to local referendum on the establishment or ongoing use of Māori wards, including requiring a referendum on any wards established without referendum at the next local body elections.

Last year, the Labour Government abolished the law that had allowed local referendums to veto council decisions to establish Māori wards.

The three parties forming the new government have said all public service departments should have their primary name in English, except for those specifically related to Māori.

This story was updated to clarify that a Referendum on the Treaty of Waitangi could still be in play in the new coalition government agreement. An early version of the story incorrectly said Potential alterations to the Treaty of Waitangi are among many changes that could affect Māori.

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