Maori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi thinks Aotearoa could be the "best nation in the world" - but not necessarily as a democracy.
His comments come after the Government launched consultation with iwi on the controversial He Puapua document - an independent report into how New Zealand could fulfil its obligations to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which the country signed up to in 2010.
ACT and National have slammed the report, the former calling it a step towards New Zealand becoming an "ethno-state" and National leader Judith Collins saying it contained a "radical interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi", despite her own party being in charge when New Zealand backed UNDRIP.
The Government has insisted the report's contents are not policy, with senior Labour MP David Parker on Friday ruling out many of its recommendations - such as a separate Upper House of Parliament for Maori.
But Waititi doesn't think an Upper House for tangata whenua goes far enough. He wants a completely independent Maori Parliament.
"That's absolutely different to having an Upper House," he told Newshub Nation on Saturday, citing the Treaty of Waitangi. "We want to be in total control of our sovereignty… which is tino rangatiratanga."
Asked how that would work, Waititi pointed to the Tuhoe settlement of 2013.
"Look at the Tuhoe settlement - that wasn't co-governance. That was Tuhoe sovereignty. The transfer of assets back to Tuhoe will show how actually this can work. Tuhoe is probably an example of how they have been able to negotiate within the system to come up with their own sovereign solutions to their problems."
The Maori Party was in power with National and ACT during the John Key-led years, but failed to be re-elected in 2017. It returned in 2020 with a much more radical outlook, Waititi infamously getting himself kicked out of the House in May after responding to what he called "racist propaganda and rhetoric towards tangata whenua" from Collins with a haka.
"The thing is you can't call anybody racist in Parliament, but you're allowed to say racist things," he explained to Newshub Nation, saying the party couldn't work with National and ACT while they continued pushing "rhetoric" he equates to hate speech.
"This type of rhetoric and propaganda has been driven by the National and ACT parties, which I believe has brought rise to more racial disharmony in this country. They've fuelled it, absolutely.
"When you're using words like 'seperatism' and 'apartheid', you talk to people who have lived in those regimes and you tell me how much love was in there, and whether it was freedom of speech - it was hate speech. When you're talking about apartheid and you look at what happened in South Africa and places like that, even America itself where they had separatism, those are not very nice words to be using and forcing onto indigenous peoples. Those words do not belong to us, and nor do those ideologies…
"So when you're using separatism and aparthied against indigenous peoples, that sounds like an oxymoron to me… that creates a space for people to start working their narrative against indigenous peoples - in Aotearoa, it's tangata whenua."
And he's concerned the ire against Maori will only get worse when consultation on He Puapua goes out to the wider public, fearing the backlash will prevent further progress.
"This is what happens in partnership - partnership is democracy, and democracy is majority rules. So we lose out again. And so shouldn't indigenous people be coming up with indigenous solutions to their oranga (survival)? Why would you leave it to a majority then to decide the fate of indigenous people? Because that's what's been happening all over the world for many, many years."
While he's enjoying being in Parliament and says he's positive about the future, Waititi would rather Maori had another way of getting more control over their affairs.
"This is the system we're currently in, the Westminster system. 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 Maori 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 Maori at 16 percent of the population in this country - will lose out, and we'll sit in second-place again."
He rejects suggestions abandoning a simple democracy for a "tiriti-centric" system would lead to separatism.
"We've been on the road to separatism for 180 years. If we look at a tiriti-centric Aotearoa, we'll probably be the best nation in the world heading down this track."
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