A senior Labour MP says there's "nothing to be scared of" in how the Government plans to live up to a UN declaration the National Party signed New Zealand up to.
In 2010, the National-led Government - in coalition with the Māori Party - said New Zealand would support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The previous Government, led by Labour under Helen Clark, refused to sign it, then-Māori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia saying it was "fundamentally incompatible with New Zealand's constitutional and legal arrangements and established Treaty settlement policy".
The declaration says indigenous people have the right to "freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development" and "to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs", including "the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education" and "the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions".
Progress towards some of these goals has been made in the last decade, including Māori-led education initiatives and more Māori wards being established in local government, for example.
To meet the rest of the obligations, the Government in 2018 - once again led by Labour - asked experts for advice. The result was the controversial He Puapua document, which has outraged National and its ally on the right, ACT, who brought it to public attention in April. The report can be read in full here.
As RNZ recently reported, "some of the ideas in He Puapua are extremely ambitious - establishing an upper House of Parliament, for example, or establishing separate Māori courts". Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson on Friday said the Government would consult with Māori over the next few months before engaging with the wider public.
While the Government has said He Puapua is not policy, just ideas to consider, Bridges - himself Māori - isn't so sure.
"I think even Willie's confused. What he's saying publicly is 'this is not the plan, we're not going to do it, but actually watch this space because we've got more coming'. I reckon he's been told to dampen this down but keep going, under the radar."
Bridges said it was "not democracy" to have separate institutions for Māori.
"We all accept there are huge disparities we need to get on top of and wrongs that need to be righted, my issue though is where a lot of the Government seems to be is this is about the Treaty, agree with that; that means partnership, agree with that; that means 50/50 in co-governance, and I just can't go along with that."
Labour MP David Parker, appearing with Bridges on The AM Show, said there were good reasons Labour refused to sign UNDRIP when it was first drafted in 2007.
"I was part of the Helen Clark government that refused to sign up to UNDRIP. We refused to sign it. Then National signed up to UNDRIP, then we're faced with implementing it and we're the ones that are criticised?"
Bridges said progress towards meeting UNDRIP's goals under National was "practical and needs-based" and "not ideological", like the suggestions found in He Puapua.
"It's something that will worry a lot of New Zealanders… It's Willie saying 'trust me'. Trusting Willie's a scary proposition," he said, claiming Jackson won't rule out a separate House of Parliament for Māori.
"Well I will," said Parker, saying there was "no way" it would happen.
"We have got one sovereign Government. We're only ever going to have one sovereign Government. We've got good representation of Māori within Parliament. There's nothing to be scared of."