ACT hopes to change National's mind on pushing Treaty Principles Bill through Parliament

The proposed changes to our founding document - the Treaty of Waitangi - were part of the coalition deal National struck with ACT.

National is promising the legislation won't make it through Parliament - but ACT is hoping to change their mind.

It was a coalition founded on a plethora of political promises.

ACT wanted a referendum, but instead it got a commitment to introduce a Bill proposing changes to the Treaty principles and then let the public have a say.

"What we've agreed as a Government is that we'll pursue it to first reading and select committee, but there's no commitment beyond that," said Prime Minister Christopher Luxon back in November.

"ACT has proposed and negotiated in coalition that Parliament will start to debate what the principles of the Treaty really mean," ACT leader David Seymour told Newshub on Friday.

"He and his right-wing, redneck mates, think they know more than everyone else - all the prime ministers, ministers and legal people over the last 40 years," said Willie Jackson, Labour's Māori development spokesperson.

The proposed changes wouldn't be to the texts of the Treaty nor of Te Tiriti o Waitangi themselves, but rather to the principles that are set out in law to guide Governments on Treaty matters.

"Over the last four decades, through the courts primarily, principles have been established in regards to the Treaty," said Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith.

"This bill is about trying to codify what those principles are," he told Newshub.

"It has deliberately misinterpreted the wording in Te Tiriti to mean, in fact, the exact opposite," said Māori legal expert Margaret Mutu.

The legislation is National walking the delicate line between its commitment to its governing partner, ACT, and National's commitment to the public that there'll be no referendum on the Treaty.

"We'll support it to the select committee as per the coalition agreement. That gives everybody the opportunity to discuss these issues, but that's as far as our support is," said Goldsmith.

"The Prime Minister has indicated that's as far as our support goes."

Newshub asked Seymour what he makes of the fact ACT's Bill is essentially dead legislation.

"The National Party have said they have no commitment either way after the first reading," he replied.

"They've never ruled out voting for it further, they've just said they have no commitment to doing so."

And without National's support the changes are dead before they've even been debated.

ACT's proposed Treaty principles

ACT's Bill, based on a draft, would propose three new principles based on the articles of the Treaty of Waitangi:

  • The New Zealand government has the right to govern all New Zealanders;
  • Honour all New Zealanders in the chieftainship of their land and property; and
  • All New Zealanders are equal under the law with the same rights and duties.