Attorney-General David Parker deeming the Rotorua Lakes District Council's proposed Māori ward restructure is discriminatory has earned him a rebuff from Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi.
Waititi, the Māori Party co-leader, has accused Parker of "caucasity" for his comments over the District Council Representative Arrangements Bill, which would give 21,700 Māori roll voters three seats - the same number as the 55,600 general roll voters.
The proposed law was brought to Parliament by Rotorua-based Labour MP Tamati Coffey and was supported by the party at its first reading. Parker, however, has since rung the warning bell - saying the proposed law appeared "to limit the right to be free from discrimination affirmed in… the Bill of Rights Act and cannot be justified".
"As the disadvantaged group is those on the general roll, changing representation arrangements away from proportional representation, therefore, creates a disadvantage for non-Māori as they cannot, in future, elect to change rolls," Parker wrote in his legal analysis published last week.
Responding to Parker's comments on Wednesday, Waititi said it was "ironic that Mr Parker has the caucasity to call a Bill discriminatory that otherwise gives equal representation to Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti".
Waititi accused Parker of throwing his fellow Labour MP Coffey under the bus.
"He and his mates of the same ilk wouldn't know discrimination if they fell over it," Waititi said of Parker. "He has the absolute cheek."
Waititi thanked Coffey for bringing the Bill to the House, despite being "shot in the foot by his own teammate".
"Pākehā should stay away from using the term 'discrimination', especially when it comes to Māori seeking equality when it comes to representation in their own country."
Newshub has contacted Parker's office for a response to Waititi's comments.
The District Council Representative Arrangements Bill has sparked a heated co-governance debate, with the Opposition National and ACT parties both voting against it.
Māori co-governance has become a fierce political issue, with ACT leader David Seymour declaring a referendum on Māori co-governance - which he likened to an "unequal society" - was a bottom line for any Coalition negotiations at election 2023.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed public consultation on co-governance would begin later this year.
The debate stems from the controversial He Puapua report, a think-piece document 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 New Zealand signing up to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People by Sir John Key's National Government in 2010.