David Seymour has defended Xero founder Rod Drury after National Māori Authority chair Matthew Tukaki called for a product boycott over his donation to ACT.
Tukaki spoke out against Seymour on Friday after the leader of the right-leaning ACT Party called for a referendum on Māori co-governance, which he likened to an "unequal society".
"ACT proposes that the next Government pass legislation defining the Principles of the Treaty, in particular their effect on democratic institutions. Then ask the people to vote on it becoming law," Seymour said on Thursday.
Seymour proposed a law setting in stone that "all citizens of New Zealand have the same political rights and duties" and "all political authority comes from the people by democratic means including universal suffrage, regular and free elections with a secret ballot".
The proposed law would also define New Zealand as a "multiethnic liberal democracy where discrimination based on ethnicity is illegal".
Seymour said he believed it was necessary due the Labour Government "trying to make New Zealand an unequal society on purpose" with "two types of New Zealanders: Tangata Whenua, who are here by right, and Tangata Tiriti who are lucky to be here".
As examples, Seymour pointed to the co-governance arrangement of the proposed independent Three Waters entities, which will be represented by regional representative groups consisting of 50 percent local council members and 50 percent iwi.
Seymour also cited the new Māori Health Authority that will be separate from the new Health New Zealand entity that will soon replace all 20 District Health Boards (DHBs).
A Māori Health Authority was recommended in the controversial He Puapua document, a report commissioned by the Government in 2019 that sets out a roadmap to co-governance between the Crown and Māori by 2040.
The Government decided to implement a Māori Health Authority after the Health and Disability System Review found that Māori health outcomes were "significantly worse" than those of other Kiwis, representing a "failure of the health and disability system" that did not reflect Treaty of Waitangi commitments.
Tukaki lashed out at the idea of a referendum on co-governance, describing it as a "dog-whistle" to racists.
"Seymour has decided this is his playbook, with the ascendancy of the National Party starting to take back votes that were bled to ACT," Tukaki said, referring to ACT's recent dip in the polls.
"Seymour is doing the only thing he can think of and that is to race-bait, to round on Māori and create further division just as he did during the debate on He Puapua... It's grubby, smacks of filth and certainly smacks of racism."
Tukaki then called for a boycott of Xero after founder and former CEO Rod Drury donated $100,000 to ACT. He was one of several rich-listers to donate to the party, including New Zealand's wealthiest person, billionaire Graeme Hart.
"Why should Māori buy products from the organisations these people own, services they charge us an arm and a leg for, software in our organisations that we pay a premium on when some of that money is then going on to be donated to the very party that we see our people and our culture sidelined?"
Seymour said Drury made the donation in a personal capacity.
"This is what we've been saying about people being afraid to have a civilised discussion," Seymour told Newshub.
"Tukaki should attack the ideas instead of the person, in this case he's not even attacking the right people. Instead he's attacking the people working at one of New Zealand's most successful businesses, really low rent behaviour.
"I've spoken to Rod, he is Ngai Tahu, and he does extensive work with Ngai Tahu. He's happy to have a coffee and a chat with anyone who has any concerns, maybe Matthew should take him up on that."
Xero, in a statement to Newshub, said it "has made no political donations in New Zealand and has no intention of doing so in the future".
"We can confirm that former Xero CEO Rod Drury, who is a non-executive director on Xero's board, has made a donation. This was in a personal capacity with no connection to Xero," a spokesperson said.
"Rod is also an entrepreneur and philanthropist with a wide range of interests. It is misleading to connect this personal donation to Xero.
"Xero is apolitical and is committed to working with all political parties in service of a strong, technology-enabled small business economy."
Tukaki responded in a video saying he would not back down.
"No David, I will not enter into a contest of ideas with you or your party. I will not enter into a debate over whether or not I have the right to stand up and push back against you, Mr Seymour," he said in the video, published on Facebook.
"I do not intend to sit down and have a cup of tea with you, even though I reached out last year to have a cup of tea with you to have a talk about these policies of yours to push back against Māori."
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi spoke out against both Seymour and Drury on Twitter.
"Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti organisations out there that use Xero products, it's time to send them back!" Waititi wrote.
"Rod Drury Xero founder donated a huge sum towards the ACT party to actively campaign against Māori and to solidify White Supremacy in this country."