What's the current state of He Puapua

And so it begins...the pre-election posturing and promising. With just three months to the election, the noise and flashing around of shiny trinkets to entice voters is already well under way.

The noise isn't just about shouting slogans and making promises though. It is also about drawing attention away from the things political parties would rather we don't remember as we enter the voting booth.

In particular, there is one big scary elephant in the room that Labour wants us to ignore. They have actually done an impressive job of shifting the attention away from this political kryptonite. It is our job to stick the spotlight firmly back on it.

What is Labour's political elephant in the room? It is He Puapua and its stealthy enabler, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

A little history...

In March 2019, then Maori Development and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, commissioned a working group to provide advice and recommendations on how to realise UNDRIP.

The working group called their report He Puapua.

Although completed in November 2019, the report and its radical recommendations avoided any public scrutiny until after the 2020 election when Labour secured a majority government.

As recommendations of the report have become a reality, Labour has been quick to distance themselves from this report, denying it is policy, denying it is a plan, and denying that they have acted on the recommendations.

Nothing to see here, folks.

Let’s take a closer look at what the report says...

Broadly, the report called for a focus on:

  1. Self-determination by Maori
  2. Maori participation in government
  3. Increased influence and control of land and resources by iwi/hapu and whanau
  4. Iwi, hapu and whanau ability to exercise authority over all aspects of culture and language
  5. Equity for Maori in opportunity and outcomes

The general themes sound reasonable until the fine print is reviewed and the process to realise these lofty ideals are exposed.

Despite claims by Minister of Maori Development Willie Jackson that He Puapua is neither a plan nor Government policy, by a miraculous coincidence, they have just happened to implement a number of initiatives that align closely to its objectives:

  • Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Act – established co-governed health with the separate Maori Health Authority
  • Water Services Entity Act – establishes 50/50 co-governance of the 10 water entities which will control the country’s entire water infrastructure
  • Resource Management reform – bills introduced to establish co-governed management of natural resources
  • Local Government and Electoral Reform – recommending legislative changes that differentiate democratic rights based on race and support co-government structures. This includes the entrenchment of Maori electoral seats.
  • Changes to the Local Government Act - that removed the opportunity to hold referenda on the establishment of Maori wards
  • Canterbury Regional Council (Ngai Tahu Representation) ActUnelected Maori representation in local government established
  • New History Curriculum - rewrites significant parts of New Zealand's history and leaves other parts out 
  • Mechanisms for transferring control of the Department of Conservation estate to tribal authorities
  • Insertion of requirement of compliance to the undefined principles of the Treaty of Waitangi into almost all legislation
  • National Action Plan Against Racism in NZ - put in place public education campaigns on structural racism 
  • Expansion of Te Pae Oranga- $70m invested in 30 more iwi community panels or community justice panels by 2024/25
  • Handling of Ihumātao protest - put private land on the table for disputes
  • Insertion of matauranga Maori into the science curriculum - undermining of sciences considered 'Western' 

This is by no means a complete list. New Zealand's democracy really is experiencing a death by a thousand cuts.

Every issue we grapple with inevitably has the distinct shadow of He Puapuaover its foundations. Water, resource management, conservation, education, justice, and health...co-governance and the themes of the He Puapua Report are everywhere.

But while Labour has attempted to take some of the sting out of the He Puapua tail, Minister Jackson has also been eager to demonstrate the continued commitment to realising UNDRIP.

In April 2022, under the cover of COVID fallout, the Minister announced that the Government had completed the first stage of a two-step engagement process toward developing their declaration plan.

To be clear, UNDRIP places no obligation or burden on New Zealand to do anything! It was an 'aspirational' non-binding agreement. However, it has been the policy of this Government to overstate the importance of UNDRIP and the need for a declaration plan.

Of course, loading up the parliamentary schedule with the Maori Health Authority, Three Waters, and the RMA reforms, Minister Jackson and Labour pushed their co-governance luck too far. New Zealanders became alarmed and it was evident that more racially-divisive policy would not be tolerated.

Jackson announced that work on realising UNDRIP would be put on hold, although he was at pains to defend the policies. We now know that what he meant was that any publicity and transparency would be put on hold as the implementing of He Puapua has continued at pace.

Despite this frantic and radical reform, Minister Jackson is also on record acknowledging that Maori-specific services don't serve most Maori. In reference to the 2023 Budget, he said, "most Maori are not attached to a lot of our Maori organisations.”

These expensive co-governance policies and separate programmes and entities don't benefit Maori and most Maori don't ask to be divided in this way.

What Maori want and need has been confirmed by polling as being the same as what ALL New Zealanders want. We are all worried about the cost of living, law and order, housing, and education.

As we look forward to 14 October, let's not forget to look for the looming shadow of He Puapua, the elephant in Chris Hipkins' caucus room.

No matter how they dress it up, Labour has spent the last six years (particularly the last three) driving racial division through our institutions and dismantling the safeguards our democracy relies on.

Are you willing to take the risk and give them another three years to implement more of the He Puapua agenda?

I'm not.