Jacinda Ardern denies claim by Winston Peters He Puapua report was 'deliberately' withheld from NZ First

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has denied Winston Peters' claim the controversial He Puapua report was "deliberately" withheld from New Zealand First. 

In his first speech since NZ First's ousting from Parliament, Peters said on Sunday the 2019 report - which sets out a roadmap to co-governance between the Crown and Māori by 2040 - was "deliberately suppressed". 

Peters said the report was never shown to any members of his party, despite NZ First and Labour being in a coalition Government at the time.

"In 2019 a report called He Puapua came to Government but was never shown to one NZ First Cabinet minister. This report was deliberately suppressed," Peters said. 

Ardern dismissed Peters' claims on Monday. 

"That is certainly not my recollection because I usually will recall those papers where they've come through and for any given reason they've been unable to progress," Ardern told reporters. 

"That's not my recollection for that paper at all."

National leader Judith Collins has accused the Government of 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 He Puapua report. 

Paradoxically, the 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. 

The Government never released the full report publicly and, because it's never been to Cabinet, it hasn't agreed a position on it. Collins says she was leaked an un-redacted copy of the report by someone concerned about the recommendations. 

Ardern said last month the report wasn't released to the public over concerns it could be misconstrued as Government policy.  

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson has prepared a Cabinet paper outlining a possible Government response to the report recommendations, which is expected to be revealed soon. 

Peters described the report as a "recipe for Māori separatism", echoing Collins. 

He said Labour knew it and "that's why they suppressed it till after the election in the full knowledge that NZ First is for one flag, one country, one law". 

"It was a gesture of ingratitude and bad faith," Peters said. 

Collins, despite sharing similar concerns to Peters about He Puapua, told Magic Talk on Monday she doubts NZ First will make a comeback in 2023. 

"I give him credit and I'm never rude about Winston Peters because I think you've got to give people credit for doing what they do," she said. "But ultimately, I think his boat has sailed."

NZ First picked up 2.6 percent of the vote at last year's election - well below the required 5 percent.  

Ardern said despite their differences, she and Peters worked well together. 

"I won't actually cast back over that period and say anything now that I wouldn't have said at the time.There were a lot of things we didn't agree on but there were a lot of things we did and we got a lot of good things done."

Ardern was asked if she would work with NZ First again. 

"I have never been in the position of ruling in or out those existing parties that I've worked with before because I've demonstrated that I could work with them. 

"But it feels like a very big hypothetical at the moment for New Zealand First. There's a number of stages before that ever becomes even a relevant consideration."