David Seymour urges Kiwis to keep open minds about Treaty of Waitangi Principles Bill

  • 25/01/2024

ACT leader David Seymour is urging Kiwis to keep open minds about his Treaty Principles Bill as critics continue voicing their fierce opposition.  

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon reiterated on Wednesday National had no plans to support the Bill beyond the first reading, but hasn't ruled it out. However, Seymour was anticipating the Bill would be more popular than his Coalition partners National and New Zealand First were currently giving it credit for.  

"I think what's important is that, whether or not National and New Zealand First keep voting for it after it's gone to Select Committee - after the public have had a say - will very much depend on where the public attitude is at by that time," Seymour told Newstalk ZB on Thursday.  

"My view is this is a debate we need to have; those principles need to be democratically discussed and debated, and our starting point is that they're universal rights for all people to be equal."  

He urged Kiwis to see the Bill "drafted... debated, let the public submit and then make up our mind before we get too far ahead of ourselves".  

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said the Bill was the Government "rewriting Te Tiriti", accusing the Coalition on Wednesday of taking New Zealand backwards with its agenda. 

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.  

The idea of a referendum on the Treaty principles was floated by Seymour during the election campaign. But Luxon, before the election, described that proposal as "divisive and not helpful". 

Debate about the Treaty turned heated last week when Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi shared a leaked drafted of the Principles Bill and accused the Coalition of wanting to "erase" Te Tiriti.

Then, on Saturday, up to 10,000 people responded to an earlier call from Kiingi Tuheitia, the Māori King, to a national hui in reaction to the Coalition Government's policies on te reo and the Treaty of Waitangi.   

On Wednesday, the Government was described as a "three-headed taniwha" and the "enemy of Māori" - as Rātana Pā attendees sent the Coalition a clear message not to mess with the Treaty.  

"The Government has no plans, and never has had plans, to amend or to revise the Treaty or the Treaty settlements that we have all worked so hard together to achieve," Luxon said on Wednesday.   

He later told reporters he was looking forward to creating better outcomes for Māori.  

"When I look at health outcomes, when I look at education outcomes, when I look at housing outcomes, when I look at economic outcomes, those are the opportunities that you actually have in Government to actually improve outcomes for Māori," Luxon said.  

"That's what I've spent my time talking about today... and that's what we'll continue to across the country.  

"What a lot of our conversation has been in the series of meetings that I've had with iwi leaders up and down the country is... more importantly, what are we doing about two-thirds of Māori kids not at school regularly at the moment? What are we doing about actually making sure that we have our kids set up to go and to be able to get well educated to do well?  

David Seymour urges Kiwis to keep open minds about Treaty of Waitangi Principles Bill
Photo credit: Getty Images

"Those are the conversations - and how can we work together to make that come to pass? How do we improve those outcomes?"  

On the Treaty Principles Bill, Luxon said: "We're part of a Coalition Government, we made a commitment that we will support a first reading of an ACT Bill... and no commitment beyond that."  

With the Bill set to be introduced before Parliament and supported to a Select Committee "as soon as practicable", according to the Coalition agreements, Luxon insisted there was "a lot more going on in Māoridom" - despite the Bill being a "topic of conversation that everyone wants to talk about".  

"What I'm focused on is making sure that I have good conversations with Māori leaders."