National leader Judith Collins not backing down from co-governance debate in face of Māori Party protests

National leader Judith Collins is not backing down from questioning Māori co-governance proposals despite the Māori Party accusing her of racism. 

"I will continue to ask questions on the constitutional nature that the Prime Minister's clearly got some plans around, until she starts to answer those questions directly," Collins said on Wednesday, following a heated debate in Parliament.

"I'm the leader of the Opposition. I'm not going to have my head petted and be told to sit down and be a good little girl."

Her comments came after Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi was kicked out of the House following his protesting against what he described as racist views being discussed.

Waititi interrupted Collins as she put questions to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about He Puapua, a Government report commissioned in 2019 that sets out a roadmap to co-governance between the Crown and Māori by 2040. 

Collins has expressed her concern that the Government is trying to implement "separatism by stealth", pointing to plans for a Māori Health Authority and Māori wards in local councils, both of which are recommended in the report. 

Paradoxically, the He Puapua report was commissioned as a response to former Prime Minister John Key - Collins' old boss - signing New Zealand up in 2010 to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. 

As Collins questioned Ardern about "separate sovereignty" in Parliament, Waititi interrupted her and asked the Speaker to step in. Collins could be heard scoffing as she was forced to sit down.

"Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance and advice," Waititi said. "Over the past two weeks there has been racist propaganda and rhetoric towards tangata whenua. That not only is insulting to tangata whenua, but diminishes the mana of this House."

National leader Judith Collins.
National leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

House Speaker Trevor Mallard dismissed Waititi's disruption, ruling that the conversation was "not at the point" where it was controversial enough to need to be stopped. 

Waititi continued to interrupt Collins and was kicked out of the House. He responded by performing a rousing haka, before departing the Chamber. 

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson also described Collins' remarks as racist, and congratulated Waititi and Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer for calling her out. 

Davidson said Collins' "ongoing racist comments" needed to be addressed. 

"This House absolutely deserves better than a narrative that harms tangata whenua communities and damages a pathway for true Tiriti justice."

Collins told reporters she has nothing against the Māori Party. 

"I'd like all Māori to know this is not talking about Māori. This is talking about constitutional arrangements that the Government is clearly talking to Māori about, and my question to the Prime Minister is: does she want to have a conversation with every other New Zealander?

"All she needs to do is answer the questions clearly, directly, and not obfuscate, and that is the point. I can't not ask questions because people might feel upset. The trouble is the Prime Minister won't answer the questions."

Collins told National supporters in a speech over the weekend she had been leaked a copy of draft recommendations from a recent hui where the Department of Conservation (DoC) discussed how to better reflect the Treaty of Waitangi's principles in its policies.

It recommends transferring the DoC estate to Māori. 

Ardern said on Monday it had not gone through any formal process through Cabinet. Neither has He Puapua. Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson has prepared a Cabinet paper outlining a possible Government response to the report. 

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi.
Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

But Collins isn't convinced. She told Magic Talk on Monday that while Ardern has ruled out a separate Māori Parliament - as suggested in He Puapua - the Government has broken promises before, therefore, "I would take the evidence over the spin any day."

Collins denied on Wednesday that she was race-baiting. 

"I think that's a really lazy way of categorising asking questions about our constitutional arrangements and I will not ever engage in that," she said. 

"It is very important though, that when the Government is undertaking constitutional changes that do have a race-basis to them, that unfortunately I end up having to ask the questions because the Prime Minister simply doesn't answer."

Collins described the recommendations in He Puapua as "radical". 

"We are now looking at what looks like joint sovereignty. That is not what I think most New Zealanders even realise."

Collins said she's happy for the Māori Party to be part of the conversation, but she can't question them in Parliament because they're not part of the Government. 

"You can't be part of the conversation if you walk out."