Election 2023: David Seymour clashes with Chloe Swarbrick over call for Treaty of Waitangi referendum as Christopher Luxon calls it 'divisive and unhelpful'

ACT leader David Seymour has called the Green Party's response to his calls for a referendum on the Treaty of Waitangi "irresponsible".

ACT is in the process of coalition negotiations with National and NZ First with the parties expected to iron out their bottom-line policies in the coming weeks.

But one of ACT's key policies is proving to be contentious. The party has proposed a referendum on the Treaty of Waitangi's principles.

It's not a policy National leader and incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon supports – but he hasn't ruled it out.  

"I'm not going to get into the details of conversations that are happening with our coalition partners. But what I'm saying to you is that it's not National Party policy. We think it would be divisive and unhelpful."

"What we're saying very clearly is that's not something that we support as a National Party. That's not something we're going to be advocating for or believing that should happen," Luxon told AM's Ryan Bridge on Monday. But the incoming Prime Minister also refused to rule it out.  

The Green Party meanwhile has suggested a referendum on the treaty could result in intense social unrest.

Seymour joined Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick on AM on Monday where the pair were asked about ACT's referendum.

Seymour said the policy will be part of the coalition talks and he believes because every New Zealander has to live under the principles of the Treaty, they should get a say on it.

The ACT leader also hit out at the Green Party's suggestion the referendum could cause unrest.

"I believe that New Zealand should be a country where we can have a rational debate about our future, what it means to be a New Zealander, the duties people have and what the treaty that founded our country means.

"When I hear politicians say, 'No you can't have that discussion because people will do bad things if you try and have that discussion', I think that's so uncivilised, it’s so irresponsible."

Seymour added he was extremely surprised to hear it from the Green Party.

"To hear it from the Green Party, first from James Shaw, which was a real surprise, now from Marama Davidson, I think that's irresponsible."

But Swarbrick hit back, saying there is an appropriate way to have the discussion but a binary referendum isn't the right way for something as huge as the Treaty of Waitangi.

"If we actually want to have a meaningful and informed discussion then there are other deliberative democracy processes to facilitate that, the likes of a citizens assembly for example. But we are not hearing that, we are hearing the proposition of a reductive binary to be put forward to the public preemptively decided by politicians and we do think that is dangerous."

Watch the full interview above.