Judith Collins is calling for a national conversation over the controversial He Puapua report.
The Government-commissioned report, which focuses on achieving the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has 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 sent to Nanaia Mahuta who was Māori Development Minister at the time, but it was never signed off by Cabinet.
The Government never released the full report publicly but an unredacted version was leaked to the National Party which published it last weekend.
Speaking on Sunday at the lower North Island Regional Conference, National Party leader Collins said there needs to be a conversation about the He Puapua suggestions and believes "separate systems is not what will help New Zealand in 2021".
"I think this is a vitally important question for all New Zealanders to consider. There are times when we, as a nation, need to have hard conversations.
"This is a conversation that needs to be had. People are concerned."
Collins said if anyone was "questioning" why she was raising the topic she would "ask them to reflect on the many changes the Government has made in the past 24 months alone".
The changes Government has made that align with recommendations of He Puapua, outlined in Collins' speech, include:
- Freshwater reforms embedding Te Mana o te Wai as a 'fundamental concept'
- Government consultation on a New Zealand history curriculum for students aged five to 15. The proposed curriculum is shaped around the consequences of colonisation and the effects of power
- A law has been passed allowing councils to urgently create Māori wards for the 2022 local government elections
- A commitment was made for the Government to work with iwi on freshwater and resource management reform
- The Māori Health Authority
- The Waitangi Tribunal has decided to have a separate child welfare service for Māori in order to comply with Article 2 of the Treaty. Kelvin Davis is now considering this
- Recommendations the ownership model of the DoC estate is reformed and that functions and powers for the DoC estate are delegated, devolved and transferred to Tangata Whenua
Collins said she wants a debate over how changes in accordance with the report will "move New Zealand forward".
"I am under no illusion that this is a highly complex and contentious debate," she continued.
"But I am simply asking the Prime Minister to implement the one recommendation from He Puapua she has ignored. That is, to have a national conversation on this issue.
"I don't want to see New Zealand become a two-system country without having a proper discussion."
When asked for the Government's position on the report, Ardern on Tuesday 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 the public consultation is 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."
Ardern has already ruled out establishing a second Māori Parliament.
In response to Ardern and Health Minister Andrew Little stating they hadn't read He Puapua, Collins said it "doesn't matter if the Government is implementing a script from He Puapua or simply operating under a view that Article 2 of the Treaty provides separate sovereignty".
"He Puapua shows the path this view leads us down. It shows New Zealand operating as a partnership between two separate governments.
"My message is simple," Collins said. "If it is Labour policy that the Crown has an obligation under the Treaty to allow for tino rangatiratanga - to allow two systems of decision-making right - and, as Cabinet agreed three weeks ago, that we must have partnership in decisions at all levels of the system, then this conclusion has consequences. It changes our democracy."