Commentators fear new Government will set race relations back by decades

Many of the changes announced on Friday by the coalition leaders will affect Māori, with commentators saying race relations will be set back by decades.

ACT leader David Seymour says he's looking forward to debating these contentious issues, which he says will enhance the mana of the Treaty.

Three parties have come together, but some fear their policies will tear the country apart.

"I think they've burnt the house down and literally repealing everything that they assume to be race-based," Māori affairs commentator Mihingarangi Forbes said.

"We've got to get away from the idea that all Māori are disadvantaged, they're not. And we've got to get away from the idea that disadvantaged people are Māori, that's not true either," said ACT leader David Seymour.

Several of the ACT Party and New Zealand First's policies being adopted by the new Government that relate to Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi include:

  • removing co-governance for public services
  • introducing a Treaty Principles Bill to define the Treaty
  • disestablishing the Māori Health Authority
  • changing a scheme that helps get more Māori and Pacific health professionals
  • re-writing the school history curriculum
  • scrapping the use of te reo Māori in Government departments

"This Government will restore the basic idea that we have nga tikanga katoa ritahi - the same rights and duties. It's not who you are that matters, it's what you do in life," Seymour said.

Critics say yesterday's announcements put Aotearoa's progress on race relations back several decades.

"Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a legislative, legal document, so I think we need to treat such documents the respect they deserve. They should be protected from Governments going this way or that way," said senior emergency medicine doctor Elspeth Frascatore.

"I think the Treaty has been robustly analysed and defined by our most brightest legal minds in the country, and historians both Māori and Pakeha," Forbes said.

"If it's up for more discussion, the place for that is with them not so much with the general public."

Throwing out 16 months of work creating the Māori Health Authority is devastating for Frascatore.

"It makes you worry, for will any health initiative be able to survive changes in Government? I strongly believe that health needs to follow the evidence," she said.

"Good money after bad is how I would describe continuing a race-based health administrator. We can do far better by having devolution to providers who might be Pacific, who might be Māori or might not have any racial basis whatsoever," Seymour said.

Waitangi Day celebrations in February will be the first big test on the new direction race relations will take.

"I'm really looking forward to celebrating our nation's founding document, I think it's really important that we cherish the Treaty of Waitangi, the Māori language and culture," Seymour said.

The new three-pronged approach to tackling a thorny topic.