Patrick Gower reveals the question David Seymour needs to answer on Māori co-governance

Patrick Gower has challenged David Seymour to explain the disparity in life expectancy between Māori and Pakeha as the ACT Party leader continues his campaign opposing co-governance with Māori.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed earlier this week that public consultation on co-governance with Māori will begin later in 2022. 

Her comments followed Seymour's announcement last week 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". 

But in an appearance on Newshub Nation on Saturday morning, Newshub's national correspondent Patrick Gower called on Seymour to consider the disparities between Māori and Pakeha in his campaign to scrap the idea.

"The question that David Seymour needs to answer is this: why if a Māori child is born, like in the house next door to me, do they live for seven years less than the child born in this [Pakeha] house?" he asked Newshub Nation host Oriini Kaipara.

"When we can find a model that can answer questions like that or seeks to answer questions like that and sell that to the New Zealand public, these kinds of arguments that David Seymour and the like are picking up are going to be null and void - and that is the challenge for the Labour Party."

According to Stats NZ, life expectancy for Māori males was 73.4 years between 2017-2019 and 77.1 years for Māori females. For non-Māori males, life expectancy was 80.9 years and 84.4 years for non-Māori females.

Ardern has in the past argued the current health system in particular "hasn't been serving Māori well", pointing out that our indigenous population have worse health outcomes and die younger than non-Māori.

Gower says the Government now needs to get on and explain how co-governance with Māori would work to allow people to understand it and decide for themselves if it's something they'd support.

"If you're going to have any kind of meaningful co-governance in Aotearoa New Zealand, you need to have the public on board - and in fact, it needs to go through an election and you need to really sell it to the public," Gower said.

"And that's what this Labour Government hasn't been doing; everybody else has been defining it for them. I cannot wait until we start to debate some of the nuts and bolts of it…

"Ultimately to me, co-governance means enhancing the mana of everybody in this country. The only way that you can do it is if everybody in the country understands what it actually is, rather than having two sides firing at each other."

Ardern, in Parliament, challenged Seymour to explain what was so wrong with co-governance arrangements. 

"Of course I support the longstanding principles of democracy in this nation but the idea that that cannot sit alongside Te Titiri o Waitangi, I take issue with that. We are more sophisticated than that, surely, than to take such a simplistic view," Ardern said. 

"Let's discuss the issue rather than what I worry about is blatant politicisation."