Former Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson 'remarkably relaxed' on co-governance

The architect of one of the earliest co-governance arrangements with Māori Chris Finlayson is relaxed about any new arrangements with iwi regarding issues such as health and education. 

In an interview, the former Treaty Negotiations Minister told The Hui the previous system hasn't worked, so "what the hell". 

Finlayson was referring to the idea of bulk funding iwi if that could address some of the deep-seated social ills. Using the example of Tūhoe's unemployment rate, Finlayson suggested bulk funding the iwi to keep their people actively engaged and working is more sensible than handing out money for the dole.

But he warned that any discussions or debate should deal with principle and not include inflammatory language, adding it is not in the public interest and we need to steer clear of hyperbole. 

The political debate over co-governance has been heating up, with ACT Party leader David Seymour calling for a referendum, but business leader Traci Houpapa told The Hui while the discussion on co-governance is in part a political discussion that doesn't mean only elected representatives but also those from Te Ao Māori. 

Houpapa said natural and legacy leaders must participate in the discussions alongside industry and thought leadership. Māori, she said, "have an important part to play in these discussions, we bring intergenerational view and intergenerational experience of survival, of resilience and revitalisation".

Where is co-governance working?

In 2008, Houpapa was one of eight Crown representatives working with five iwi to create a co-governance model which would become the Waikato River Authority.  The authority has been widely accepted as a successful collaboration focused on returning the health of the Waikato River.

Finlayson agrees and adds "what's been going on is a very sensible arrangement to give iwi a say which they were denied for far too long in natural resources with which they have had a long historical connection.