Judith Collins attacks Government as National launches 'demand the debate' campaign

Judith Collins has been highly vocal in her criticism of the He Puapua  report.
Judith Collins has been highly vocal in her criticism of the He Puapua report. Photo credit: Newshub

Opposition leader Judith Collins says the Government is continuing to make policy announcements it never campaigned on and ordinary Kiwis are being left out of important decisions being made by the Government.

Her comments come as her National Party launches a 'demand the debate' campaign relating to the controversial He Puapua report.

The independent report was commissioned by the Government in 2019 and laid out a roadmap for how New Zealand can meet its obligations under the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous People, which was signed by Collins' own party in 2010.

Earlier this month, the Government began consulting with Māori on the report - with consultation with the wider public also planned.

The Government insists the report's contents are not policy and has already ruled out many of its recommendations.

But Opposition parties have been highly vocal in their criticism of the report, with Collins accusing the Government of a "separatism by stealth" agenda. 

"Kiwis were never told about it at the time and it was never campaigned on by Labour," Collins said on Sunday.

"The He Puapua report contains recommendations for fundamental changes to our legal, constitutional, and democratic governance arrangements. Changes like separate health and justice systems, separate RMA rules, and separate electoral arrangements. 

"These proposals must be taken to an election so all Kiwis can have their say.

"While they claim publicly it's not their policy, the Labour Government has already started to implement large parts of He Puapua like Māori Wards and a Māori Health Authority, without the wide-ranging public debate that these changes deserve."

Collins said "Labour was elected on a COVID-19 mandate" and the recent announcement of several policies the party did not campaign on meant "New Zealanders are starting to feel left out".

Despite Collins' comments, not everyone is against the recommendations included in the He Puapua report. Last week Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi told Newshub Nation there were some recommendations in the report didn't go far enough. 

He said New Zealand's current system isn't working and Māori need another way of taking control over their affairs.

"Our people have tried to manipulate and work in the system for a long, long time. But I think it's time for us to start looking at some new systems where it's more equitable and more equal for indigenous people.

"We need to start looking at how Māori can participate more equally and equitably in that particular space in a Tiriti-centric Aotearoa. Not in a democracy, because… democracy is majority rules, and indigenous peoples - especially Māori at 16 percent of the population in this country - will lose out, and we'll sit in second-place again."

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson has also said the time is right for the country to develop a plan that advocates for Māori in real and "meaningful ways". 

"This must reflect New Zealand and it's an important conversation for us to all have together as a nation," he said earlier this month.

"As we have previously said, He Puapua is not Government policy nor the basis of a declaration plan. Instead, it is a starting point for discussion."

Collins said National's new campaign would also tackle other issues it felt were not being adequately addressed by the Government.