Christopher Luxon, David Seymour divided over Treaty of Waitangi being 'partnership'

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and David Seymour, the leader of one of the Coalition parties, are divided over whether the Treaty of Waitangi represents a partnership between the Crown and Māori.

In a speech on Sunday, ACT leader Seymour said the "notion that the Treaty is a partnership between races" was a "divisive" one and believed the proposed Treaty Principles Bill would clarify that wasn't the case.

"Our Bill means Parliament would legislate that those are the principles, and that means that we are not a partnership between races," said Seymour.

"We are not people who have to look at our family tree to find out how we fit in. We're all New Zealanders with the same basic rights and with that platform constitutionally we can get stuck in to tackling the real problems and challenges that New Zealanders face." 

But that's not the Prime Minister's view.

"My personal view is it's a relationship between Crown and iwi, it's akin to a partnership," Luxon said.

Luxon on Friday handed off responsibility for the Treaty Principles Bill to Seymour, who he made an associate Justice Minister. It will be based on ACT Party policy to debate and define the principles of the Treaty, which Seymour says has been left in the hands of judges and bureaucrats for too long.

"It's an ACT policy. It's important and appropriate that he leads it," Luxon said on Tuesday. 

He said the coalition deal between National and ACT only includes the commitment to support the Bill through to Select Committee.  

Luxon last week said the debate being stirred up by the legislation – that his own Government is introducing and which he has only defended by pointing to it being a coalition agreement – was "divisive and unhelpful".

Seymour on Sunday told Newshub he didn't believe the debate was divisive.  

"Ultimately if we say that the Treaty Principles debate is divisive what we are really saying is we can't do anything where people disagree in this country."    

He said it made a lot of sense "for the person who is driving the idea" can manage the Bill.

"Chris Luxon has been incredibly collegial. I accept this is not his party's policy but all of us are making compromises for the Coalition to work together."

Seymour said he hoped National would "judge the public mood and decide that public judgment requires them to keep voting for it".

In his speech, Seymour said the notion of the Treaty being a partnership between tangata whenua (land people) and tangata tiriti (Treaty people) could not be true. 

"It is incompatible with the fundamental democratic value that all citizens are equal under the law. This divisive idea has been fuelled by unelected bureaucrats and judges promoting a 'partnership' interpretation of our founding document."

The Treaty Principles Bill was the responsibility of Justice Minister and National MP Paul Goldsmith prior to it being given to Seymour. Goldsmith said he didn't ask for it to be taken off him but as the Justice Minister continues to have an interest in the treaty principles.

Labour MP Willie Jackson said Seymour was "out of sync" with both the Prime Minister and celebrated judges that viewed the Treaty as a partnership.

He said Luxon had "come to his senses" with his comments on the Treaty being a partnership.  

"It was good to hear him say that they will continue the relationship and the work of the past few decades," Jackson said.

On Luxon's decision to hand off the Treaty Principles Bill to Seymour, Jackson said the Prime Minister wouldn't want to be "tainted" by it.