Judith Collins denies United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples signed by National in 2010 led to He Puapua

Judith Collins does not accept that National signing a United Nations indigenous rights pact in 2010 led to the controversial He Puapua report she frequently criticises. 

"I just think the Declaration itself meant nothing really, because it had no requirement for us to do anything and it was never binding so, why would you worry about that?" Collins told Magic Talk on Monday. 

"The point simply is, that is an excuse, and the current Labour Government is using it as an excuse. It is simply ridiculous to say that that is the reason for He Puapua."

The United Nations (UN) issued a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, and New Zealand initially voted against it, along with the United States, Canada and Australia. 

The Government at the time, led by Labour's Helen Clark, worried that some of it contradicted New Zealand law. 

For example, Article 26 states: "Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired."

As then-Māori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia pointed out, it was not consistent with how some land traditionally occupied by Māori is now lawfully owned by Māori and non-Māori.

But in 2010, Canada and Australia decided to join the pact, with the US signalling plans to do the same, so New Zealand - under the leadership of National's John Key - signed up. 

Eight years later, Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Māori Development, commissioned a working group to write a document on how New Zealand could give effect to the UN principles it signed up to - and that document is He Puapua, written in 2019

National leader Judith Collins is opposed to recommendations made in He Puapua.
National leader Judith Collins is opposed to recommendations made in He Puapua. Photo credit: Getty

ACT leader David Seymour, who is also critical of He Puapua, says Labour under Clark's leadership was right to reject the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

"It is time for the National Party to realise its mistake," he said on Sunday, after the current Government launched a consultation process on recommendations outlined in He Puapua

Collins says pointing blame at National gives Labour an excuse. 

"The Government of the day was in coalition with the Māori Party and the fact is, John Key in particular, made certain concessions to the coalition partners," Collins told Magic Talk. 

"The document itself is not the reason for He Puapua - it is simply an excuse because the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is nothing about completely separating out the people from decision-making; that is not about some new form of totalitarian-type behaviour. It is simply being used as a smokescreen."

The He Puapua report includes recommendations such as a separate Māori Parliament or Upper House, a Māori Health Authority, Māori wards in local government, and compulsory teaching of te reo Māori in schools.

New Zealand signed up to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010 under the leadership of John Key.
New Zealand signed up to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010 under the leadership of John Key. Photo credit: Getty

Collins has accused Labour of a "separatism by stealth" agenda, as it is already implementing a Māori Health Authority and making it easier to establish Māori wards in local government. 

Jackson, when he announced plans to engage with Māori and then the wider public to develop a roadmap for the UN pact, said He Puapua is not Government policy and is not the plan.

"From a Government perspective we are not advancing that report. Our focus is on this public consultation process now."

But Collins remains skeptical.

"Of course they're spinning it, and when you look at everything else they're doing around the Māori wards in local government, around what they're doing with Three Waters, the RMA changes they're bringing in; it's no longer consultation with iwi - it's now consent from iwi to get anything done.  

"This is moving entirely into an ethnic-based form of democracy which is basically not democracy the way we know it and you saw it at the weekend with the co-leader of the Māori Party Rawiri Waititi basically saying 'democracy doesn't work for us'."