Restarting the Co-governance conversation
“Co-governance—I feel like it’s becoming an increasingly politicised term,” said Prime Minister Ardern.
Indeed, and to expect otherwise is naïve. We seriously need a civil, charitable, and inclusive conversation on co-governance in this nation. It is about shared decision-making between Māori and the Crown and goes to the heart of our constitution. How we do this conversation matters deeply.
An inauspicious entry into the public square, shrouded in fear and confusion.
“If we’re going to have a constitutional conversation it needs to be out in the open and not hidden the shadows,” said ACT leader David Seymour, “Jacinda Ardern seems intent on keeping any sunlight away from this important issue.”
And it has seemed shadowy. Just under a year ago, and two years from the report being commissioned, the heavily redacted He Puapua Report was reluctantly released under the Official Information Act. An inauspicious entry into the public square, shrouded in fear and confusion.
This Government seems to have gone from these first steps to running without letting anyone know where they are going.
He Puapua is the “first step” towards a Declaration Plan that outlines how we might honour our support of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). Helen Clarke’s Labour Government declined to support the Declaration in 2007, saying it was “fundamentally incompatible with New Zealand’s … established Treaty settlement policy.” John Key’s National-led Government (in coalition with the Māori Party) supported the Declaration in 2010, with a similar condition that “existing frameworks define the bounds of New Zealand’s engagement with the declaration.”
Undertaken now, an all-or-nothing referendum based on this will create division and fail do justice to the complexity of the question.
This Government seems to have gone from these first steps to running without letting anyone know where they are going. Co-governance is not new and is worth exploring, but there has been a flurry of changes that are pushing the bounds of our legal and constitutional arrangements. Three Waters, health reforms, and resource management changes, to name a few, are well underway. The boundaries may need to be pushed, but as it stands, this Government has “lost the people,” as one mayor said.
We remain in the dark. But rather than opening the windows, ACT seem intent on throwing a political grenade to bring light to the situation with their “bottom line” proposal for a referendum. They have even outlined their own Treaty principles without any consultation, and cheekily copy-and-pasted one from the Labour Party’s constitution. Undertaken now, an all-or-nothing referendum based on this will create division and fail do justice to the complexity of the question.
This Government’s false start will make it even more difficult than it needed to be, but let’s get this back to the starting blocks
Public Consultation on the Declaration Plan starts June this year, the draft plan slated for release early 2023. It will be a defining issue of the election. And while this Government has been exceptional at communications, it has not done these types of conversations particularly well. They need to appoint an Independent Advisory Panel with sufficient mana, humility, and expertise to guide this process.
Our already-fraying social cohesion and unity is at stake here; how we conduct this conversation will define us. This Government’s false start will make it even more difficult than it needed to be, but let’s get this back to the starting blocks and begin well—ensuring it’s well-led, out in the open, and everyone can get amongst it this time.go back