National's Christopher Luxon commits to scrapping Māori Health Authority, but no need for referendum on co-governance

National leader Christopher Luxon is committed to scrapping the new Māori Health Authority, but sees no need for a referendum on co-governance - a bottom line for ACT. 

Last week ACT leader David Seymour announced that a referendum on Māori co-governance, which he likened to an "unequal society", was a bottom line for any coalition negotiations in 2023. 

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". 

Luxon, who based on current polling would need ACT's support to form a centre-right administration and become Prime Minister, said on Tuesday he has concerns about co-governance but sees no need for a referendum on the issue. 

"I have concerns about co-governance as it moves from management of local natural resources into the delivery of public services but what I'd say to you is the bigger issue is the Government needs to make the case as to what they're doing in this space and where we're going," he told reporters. 

"When you don't take the people with you, when you don't frame up what it's about, as a result you leave people behind and it drives more division."

Luxon initially avoided ruling out a referendum on co-governance.

"I'm not getting into that. I appreciate [Seymour]'s got a view about what we might want to do with his party and a referendum. 

"What I'd say to you is we know what our views are around co-governance and that's very clear for us as a party but the reality is for me on co-governance, the Government has to define what it's about."

He eventually got there. 

"I don't see a need for a referendum at this point, if you're asking me that question."

But Luxon is committed to scrapping the new Māori Health Authority, a key component of the Government's health system reforms - all 20 District Health Boards (DHBs) replaced with a new centralised entity, Health NZ. 

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. 

"We personally believe that we don't need two systems to deliver public services. We need a single system that ultimately has enough innovation and components in it that can deliver for people on the basis of need," Luxon said. 

"Our view is the Māori Health Authority is creating a bureaucracy that actually won't lead to better outcomes."

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 report was commissioned as a response to the former National-led Government signing New Zealand up in 2010 to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People UNDRIP.

In July last year, Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson announced plans to consult with Māori on He Puapua before engaging with the wider public on indigenous rights. The engagement with iwi and Māori organisations is now complete. 

Jackson, in a statement to Newshub, said Cabinet was yet to meet to discuss the next steps on the development of the draft Declaration plan for UNDRIP.

"I will have more to say once that has occurred," Jackson said. "I will then report back to Cabinet mid-year with the draft Declaration Plan for approval before embarking on a wider (full) public consultation process on the draft Declaration Plan."

Jackson said ACT was "intentionally misleading New Zealanders with this nonsense rhetoric" about the He Puapua report.

"He Puapua was a report written by an independent working group, that is not government policy and, in fact, Cabinet confirmed that last year when approving a two-step engagement process for the development of a plan to realise the objectives of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration).

"The National-led government in 2010, expressed its support for the Declaration, we are continuing on the path of the obligations National signed us up to."

Seymour told The Hui on Monday that a combination of the courts, the Waitangi Tribunal, the public service, and some politicians have "transformed" what the Treaty of Waitangi means, from a guarantee of property rights and a commitment to right past wrongs, to something that "pervades all aspects of public life between two ethnicities". 

"There are examples of specific settlements of specific wrongdoings in the past that have been resolved by saying, 'We'll have co-governance over, for example, the maunga in Auckland'. That's okay. You could make the argument that actually, those assets should've been returned in full," Seymour said. 

"But what is important is when it comes to the boards of Crown researchers, the boards of state-owned enterprises, the management of Three Waters and healthcare. Those were things that did not exist in 1840, so by insisting on co-governance for those, the current Government is moving to a whole new paradigm."

Three Waters is the Government's plan to amalgamate local water assets into four public entities, which will be represented by regional representative groups consisting of 50 percent local council members and 50 percent iwi.