Veteran Māori broadcaster Moana Maniapoto accused National leader Christopher Luxon of "misinformation" during a fiery debate about co-governance.
In an episode of Te Ao with Moana on Māori TV, Luxon explained to Maniapoto the reasons for his opposition to the Government's centralised co-governance arrangements, like the new Māori Health Authority.
"We've had co-governance in the past-National government that's been bounded around Treaty claims and iwi managing local natural resources essentially working with local government," Luxon explained.
"What we now seem to be talking about is co-governance with respect to the delivery of public services and my issue is I believe a single system with innovation and components around targeting people on the basis of need and partnering through devolution and through localism with iwi and through local government, to actually get better outcomes."
Luxon has committed to scrapping the Māori Health Authority if National wins the election in 2023. It's 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.
"Isn't Māori health in such a crisis that we do need to pile more money in and be very brave and bold in our thinking?" Maniapoto asked Luxon.
He replied: "All we're going to do is amalgamate and centralise and build a massive bureaucracy that will end up competing with Health New Zealand."
Maniapoto disputed Luxon's claim.
"No, we're not. That's misinformation," she said.
The Māori Health Authority will commission kaupapa Māori services and work alongside Health NZ to develop system plans and commissions for primary and community services.
"You want the one system that you suggest will work for everybody. In the last 40 years, there have been massive attempts to address inequities within the health system," Maniapoto said.
"Everybody, all the experts - the Heather Simpson report, the Māori health advisory group, all the NGOs that wrote to you and David Seymour last week, the Waitangi Tribunal with its interim recommendation - they all say that we need an independent Māori authority that will work in a certain way. Why do you not trust expert advice?"
Luxon replied: "I think we'll create a massive amount of bureaucracy."
A Māori Health Authority was recommended in the controversial He Puapua document, a think-piece 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 Māori is complete and wider public consultation will begin later this year.
"You're not helping with that conversation," Maniapoto told Luxon. "You're using words like separatism."
He replied: "I'm not."
But Luxon's predecessor Judith Collins did. She accused the Government of "separatism by stealth" for introducing the Māori Health Authority and scrapping the ability for Māori wards to be overturned by a local poll.
"I'm up for that conversation. That's why I'm here with you today. I'm coming on your show because you want to discuss these issues," Luxon told Maniapoto.
"I've given you a different perspective. I appreciate it's not your perspective but I'm putting forward what I think and what we think."
Luxon said the Government needs to be clear about its co-governance intentions.
"I don't think the Government is being very clear about co-governance and I think if you went outside on the street and asked an everyday New Zealander: what is co-governance? They'd be unable to explain it."
Luxon's suggestion was to instead focus on former Prime Minister and National leader Bill English's 'social investment model' - "targeting support on the basis of need".
"A good example for me would be the COVID story. Initially, the Government said we'll just run everything centrally from Wellington and it wasn't until they engaged with Chinese communities with language issues to get vaccination rates up - the same happened with Māori/Pasifika - that we were able to use local community organisations to get to those communities."