New Zealand First promises to review Waitangi Tribunal and push for a reset

Cabinet Minister Shane Jones has taken aim at the Waitangi Tribunal and promised to review their scope. 

A record attendance was expected at Jones' annual Waitangi party on Sunday evening. 

However, there's an even bigger crowd who are not feeling the manaakitanga from this Government, with thousands upon thousands coming from all corners to take part in a hikoi to Waitangi.  

"How much anxiety is this Government creating among Māori?" Newshub asked one person on the hikoi. 

"Well, how big is the ocean?" she responded. 

"Are you worried about the new Government?" Newshub asked another.

"Yeah, he's probably going to take over all Māori," she responded.  

The Government's Treaty Principles Bill promises to disestablish the Māori health Authority with a direction to rename Government agencies in English first - fuelling fear of the future. 

"I certainly acknowledge we are now in a situation where we are at loggerheads with the iwi leaders," Jones said. 

But it's not just iwi leaders - Māori are mobilising together and using every instrument at their disposal to send a message, including via the Waitangi Tribunal. 

There have now been six legal claims lodged against the Government. 

"Voters trust us with their vote, and they do want a reset. Now, navigating the reset is going to require a whole lot of skill," Jones said. 

The latest tribunal claim is an attempt to stop the rollback of smokefree laws, with New Zealand First's Casey Costello in charge. 

However, she isn't worries about the heat she might face. 

"When I have the chance to talk to people one-on-one it's a chance to explain we want to do practical things. We just didn't agree that prohibition is the way to go," she said.  

Jones was more bullish.    

"I want to be absolutely clear and honest. I don't understand why the Waitangi Tribunal believes it has the power and authority to gainsay a newly elected Government with an electoral mandate to change things," Jones said.  

He is on a mission to redefine the scope of the tribunal, asking: "What gives the Waitangi tribunal the belief that their power is greater than the voting democratic will of Kiwis?" 

Separate to ACT leader David Seymour's Treaty Principles Bill, which Jones doesn't want to support, he wants all references to the Treaty principles in legislation reviewed.   

"I think it's about 57 individual references to the principles of Treaty of Waitangi and many of those pieces of legislation," Jones told Newshub. 

"The public don't even know they're there, in fact I didn't even know they were there and that's a body of work that we will quietly chip away at." 

The Government is under no illusion about the welcome they might get when they show up at Waitangi tomorrow. 

"Yes well I will get my son and my nephew to walk along with me and be on watch for any stray dildos," Jones joked, referencing a 2016 incident in which a dildo was thrown at MP Steven Joyce.

There is also a feeling tensions are being stoked by inflammatory language, with Jones saying: "I deeply resent the rhetoric coming out of the Māori Party, but dignity and class forbids me to sink that low."

On Saturday, Labour's Peeni Henare used a metaphor about getting out a gun, firing at the enemy and letting the shots speak for him.

"I think that they should be held to a very high standard for talking about shooting people just as I'm sure any other leader would," Seymour told Newshub. 

"The idea that they get a free pass because they said it in Māori on a marae points to some of the challenges that we have in New Zealand."

Labour's Willie Jackson made no apologies for the comment.

"Our people love it in terms of hearing that type of korero on the marae. We are not going to temper Peeni because people take things absolutely literally," Jackson said.

And if Seymour was offended by Henare's comments, he had better steel himself for what else might be said at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the days to come.