'#HeyColoniser': Māori Party takes over National's 'Demand the Debate' slogan

National's 'Demand the Debate' campaign, under which Māori co-governance concerns have been raised, has been adopted by the Māori Party, which is demanding a debate about "colonisers' entitlements" and "white privilege". 

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, writing in an opinion piece for NZ Herald, said there should be a debate on the "inherently white system", people "refusing to address their attitudes of white privilege" and "systemic racism". 

Writing about it on social media, Ngarewa-Packer used the hashtag "#HeyColoniser", saying, "if we're going to have a debate about our indigenous rights let's debate the coloniser's entitlement, starting 181 years ago". 

She added: "The enraged racists are tiring and sooner or later they will realise that the demands of the coloniser will no longer be tolerated."

National leader Judith Collins launched the 'Demand the Debate' campaign earlier this month, calling on the Government to give Kiwis more say on issues that Labour didn't campaign on, such as the controversial He Puapua report. 

Commissioned in 2019 as a response to the previous National-led Government signing New Zealand up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the report sets out a roadmap to co-governance between the Crown and Māori by 2040. 

The Government is currently working through a consultation process on the recommendations, beginning with iwi and Māori organisations over the next few months, which will be followed by wider public consultation. 

Collins accused the Government of a "separatism by stealth" agenda over He Puapua, after plans were set in motion for a Māori Health Authority as well as Māori wards in local councils, both of which were recommended in the report. 

Collins at the weekend called on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to rule out separate justice systems for Māori and Pākehā - a recommendation in the report - despite Ardern already ruling out a separate Māori Parliament.

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.
Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

"The Prime Minister has ruled out a separate Parliament because of public pressure, however has implemented other recommendations from the He Puapua report, including a separate Health Authority and Māori wards, without the wide-ranging debate these significant changes deserve," Collins said. 

"Every week I'm contacted by thousands of Kiwis who are worried they just don't have a say in the future of their country anymore. They're being kept in the dark and their questions go unanswered by Ardern's Government."

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi also took a crack at National's campaign, after National MP Stuart Smith demanded a debate on whether "Aotearoa" should be used as a de facto name for New Zealand. 

"It is presumptuous and disrespectful to make a decision of such cultural importance for the country without engaging all who live there," Smith wrote in a Stuff opinion piece. 

He pointed to the flag referendum initiated by former Prime Minister John Key, in which New Zealanders voted to keep the current flag. 

"Arguably changing the name of the country is even more significant than changing the flag, and it is my belief that the right thing for the Labour Government to do is to advance an open conversation on this," he wrote. 

Smith said there are Kiwis who support the notion of co-governance and those who oppose it, there is a third group who just want more clarity from the Government. 

Waititi thanked Smith for giving him the chance to respond, but argued such a debate would only ever suit the majority, as Māori make up about 16.7 percent of the population. However, they are equal partners under the Treaty of Waitangi. 

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

"Perhaps MP Smith's identification of the third group of people has been wrongly mistaken for those who aren't afraid of that new sunrise and change in the tide - those embracing and committed to a true Tiriti centric Aotearoa."

Smith told Newshub it's time these issues were discussed. He thanked the Māori Party for being part of the debate. But he doesn't agree that white people are more privileged. 

"I think it is time we actually ask New Zealanders about things like this rather than having these things brought in as they appear to be, without asking and speaking to New Zealanders about their view, because changing our name is fundamental," he said. 

"As for things like so-called white privilege, I don't know what that means, quite frankly. I think we have very successful people across all ethnicities and actually, it's not about the colour of one's skin - it's the content of their character. 

"That's what we should always judge people by."