David Seymour hits out at 'activist judges and bureaucrats' after leaking of draft Treaty of Waitangi principles

Regulation Minister David Seymour is hitting out at "activist judges and bureaucrats" who are calling the ACT Party's Treaty of Waitangi Principles Bill "highly contentious". 

On Thursday night, Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi called out the Government in an Instagram post - accusing the Coalition of wanting to "erase" Te Tiriti o Waitangi. In the post, Waititi shared a leaked draft of the Treaty of Waitangi principles. 

A short time after media reports about the leak, Seymour fired back on social media - saying "activist judges and bureaucrats" had "twisted the meaning of our founding document to give different groups of people different rights". 

"New Zealanders were never consulted on this," the ACT leader said on X

Seymour said his party spoke for "New Zealanders who believe division is one of the greatest threats to our country". 

The leaked Ministry of Justice document called the Bill "highly contentious" because of "the fundamental constitutional nature of the subject matter", as well as "the lack of consultation with the public on the policy development prior to the Select Committee". 

"Last night, Te Pāti Māori received a section of a leaked Government document from a trusted and reliable source," Waititi said in a Friday press release titled, 'Te Pāti Māori ready to mobilise after leaked Government document.' 

"This leak only confirms what we all knew to be the true intent of this Government - to erase and rewrite Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It is an attack on our mokopuna and we have every right to defend ourselves as tangata whenua." 

But Seymour said ACT was proposing a "proper public debate on what the principles of the Treaty actually mean". 

The draft Bill proposed, according to the document, the three new Treaty of Waitangi principles be:  

  • Article 1: The New Zealand Government has the right to govern all New Zealanders  
  • Article 2: The New Zealand Government will honour all New Zealanders in the chieftainship of their land and all their property  
  • Article 3: All New Zealanders are equal under the law with the same rights and duties. 

That compared with the current Treaty of Waitangi principles, which were:   

  • The Government has the right to govern and make laws  
  • Iwi have the right to organise as iwi and, under the law, control their resources as their own  
  • All New Zealanders are equal before the law  
  • Both the Government and iwi are obliged to accord each other reasonable cooperation on major issues of common concern  
  • The Government is responsible for providing effective processes for the resolution of grievances in the expectation that reconciliation can occur. 

"ACT's goal is to restore the mana of the Treaty by clarifying its principles and confirming that all New Zealanders are equal under the law, with the same rights and duties," Seymour said. 

The Bill was needed "to ensure a healthy debate on whether our future lies with different rights based on ancestry", he said, "or whether we want to be a modern, multi-ethnic liberal democracy where every New Zealander has the same rights". 

Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith, meanwhile, also responded to the leaked document on Friday - saying it was a draft paper that hadn't "been seen or considered by Cabinet". 

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon had "been clear that National has no intention to support" the Bill beyond its first reading, the Nats minister said. 

Supporting the Bill to its first reading was part of the post-election Coalition deal between ACT, National and NZ First and a compromise on Seymour's proposed referendum on the matter.  

Critics have said it would take New Zealand's race relations back decades. 

The leaking of the document comes ahead of Saturday's Hui for Unity, hosted by Kiingi Tuheitia (the Māori King) at Tūrangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawāhia. The purpose of the hui was to come up with a response to the Government's policies on Māori affairs - particularly te reo Māori and Te Tiriti.