Health Minister Andrew Little says he hasn't read the He Puapua report recommending a Māori Health Authority, throwing National leader Judith Collins' claims into doubt.
Collins has speculated that the Government is acting on recommendations in He Puapua, a report commissioned by the Government in 2019 that sets out a roadmap to co-governance between the Crown and Māori by 2040.
It proposes a Māori Health Authority and Māori wards in councils, which the Government has implemented. It also suggests separate court and justice systems, and a Māori Parliament or Upper House.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern already ruled out the prospect of a Māori Parliament when asked about it last month by ACT leader David Seymour.
She said on Monday He Puapua hasn't gone to Cabinet therefore it should not be treated as Government policy. But Collins says the Government must be acting on it, since some recommendations have been implemented.
That speculation has been thrown into doubt now that Little has admitted he hasn't read He Puapua, and therefore wasn't acting on the recommendations of the report when he announced a Māori Health Authority.
"No, I haven't read the He Puapua report," Little told reporters on Tuesday.
In a speech to National Party supporters over the weekend, Collins called for a public conversation about the proposals in He Puapua, and claimed the Government was introducing separatism by stealth.
"It is very clear that there is actually an implementation plan proceeding," she said Tuesday.
"Our constitutional arrangements are very important. It does not mean that a Government should just by stealth change those without getting the consent of the public. Consent of all New Zealanders needs to be had for this."
The Māori Health Authority is part of the Government's huge health sector shake-up announced last month. All DHBs will be scrapped and consolidated into Health NZ, which will operate in collaboration with the Māori Health Authority.
Collins has promised to scrap the health sector shake-up, likening the proposed Māori Health Authority last week to "segregation" of last century.
"It's just embarrassing that the leader of a major political party would talk in that way," Little said of Collins' remarks.
"We have major equity concerns with Māori health outcomes, but actually, the Crown has obligations under the Treaty and the principle obligation is partnership."
Little brushed off Collins' concerns about Māori Health Authority veto powers.
"The way it's set up is agreement will have to be reached. That's what a partnership arrangement looks like."
Ardern on Monday accused Collins of trying to spark a conversation about concerns of expanded Māori co-governance under Labour to pick up popularity in the polls. A Roy Morgan poll in April showed National on 24.4 percent behind Labour on 45.5 percent.
"I see it as nothing more than pure politics. Ultimately, the very issue that the leader of the Opposition is trying to attack is a declaration that her Government and a Cabinet she belonged to signed up to."
The He Puapua report was commissioned after New Zealand endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010, under the leadership of former Prime Minister John Key - Collins' former boss.
Collins said Ardern's "personal attack" showed she didn't want to answer hard questions.
"My advice to the Prime Minister is that she's best to actually answer the issues that have been raised with a straight answer."
National MP Chris Bishop said he "absolutely" agreed with Collins' speech.
"We are fully supportive of Māori aspirations in terms of health, education and improving the appalling statistics that we see across the whole suit of portfolios. The question, is how you do that? And we are opposed to a separate Māori Health Authority."
National MP Nicola Willis also backed the speech.
"If the Government is commissioning documents like He Puapua, it owes New Zealanders the opportunity to discuss those documents in full. I think it's very suspicious. Some of the things it proposes I think New Zealanders would be very challenged by," she said.
"I think that what Judith Collins has been very clear about is that having two separate systems of governance would lead to segregation."