"I have bought us tickets to see 'Whina'," I was told.
"I knew Whina Cooper" I said. "Why would I want to see the movie?"
We went. It is a good film. I recommend the movie to those who say they do not understand what Māori are going on about. I can vouch that the poverty in my electorate as depicted in the film was real.
Rena Owen's portrayal was the Whina I remember. I used to be rung at home: "I am Whina Cooper's granddaughter. I have been asked to ask you ..." It would be a request for assistance in dealing with a government department.
I would get on to it. The MP for Northern Māori, Matiu Rata, had an electorate that was impossible for him to serve. It stretched from North Cape to Auckland Central. I handled his Auckland constituents' matters and calls from Whina.
As minister I met with Whina Cooper. Before agreeing to a Treaty settlement, I would consult the knights and dames of Māoridom. Dame Whina, while passionate about Māori land, never once suggested co-governance.
I can authenticate the film's claim that Whina had no time for radicals who wanted to take advantage of Māori grievances.
The portrayal of Sir Āpirana Ngata also rings true. Ninety years ago Ngata was often acting Deputy Prime Minister. He was the first Māori lawyer and a recognised scholar.
Ngata wrote about the Treaty. Born in 1874, he would have known chiefs who signed the document. Ngata would reject this Government's radical revisionist version of the Treaty.
This matters. Almost without debate, New Zealand is undergoing the biggest constitutional change since 1840. Those who question the wisdom of that change are being silenced by accusations of being racist.
At the risk of being censored or asked "to buy a one-way ticket to Australia" by the president of the Māori Party, here is the constitutional issue.
New Zealand has been a liberal democracy since the British Parliament passed the Constitution Act 1852, setting up parliamentary government.
The Oxford Dictionary says: "A liberal democracy is a system of government in which individual rights and freedoms are officially recognised and protected. The exercise of political power is limited by the rule of law."
Fundamental to a liberal democracy is government being accountable to the people by a system of one person, one vote.
Liberal democracy is incompatible with co-government by tribes. New Zealand has never been co-governed by iwi.
What is called co-governance of assets is actually de facto co-ownership. Co-ownership is a pragmatic solution to Treaty claims to assets such as national parks.
But taking the concept of co-governance and applying it to assets which iwi have no claim to is the confiscation of property. It is ratepayers - Māori and non-Māori - who paid for the pipes, dams, stormwater drains and sewage plants.
The Government's Three Waters legislation is a coup. It is replacing liberal democracy with co-government with iwi.
Co-government is leading us down a dark road. The logic of a Māori Health Authority is that in future medical decisions will be based not on need, but on race. There will never be enough money to pay for every possible treatment. Are people to be denied medical treatment because they are the wrong race?
When this happens we will have set up in New Zealand a system of apartheid, defined by the Oxford Dictionary "as a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race". Apartheid was wrong in South Africa. It will be wrong in New Zealand.
Sir Apirana Ngata would have rejected the notion that the Treaty proposed apartheid government. The Whina Cooper I knew would have rejected it too.
Even if the revisionists are correct and in 1840 the chiefs wanted tribal government, that does not make it right in 2022. We are not slaves to history. The vast majority of New Zealanders, Māori and non-Māori, do not want to be co-governed by a self-selected Māori elite. We want to live in a liberal democracy where every vote is equal.
Co-government is Labour's agenda. They have the Greens' support. The Māori Party has made it clear that should they get the balance of power, it is their programme. On this and other issues it is not clear what Christopher Luxon believes.
What we need is another Whina Cooper to lead a defence of article three of the Treaty - equal citizenship.
After hearing David Seymour's vigorous defence of liberal democracy at the Act Party's conference, I believe we have found that leader.
The land march started small. It too was dismissed by some commentators as racist, predicting "they will not reach Whangārei". But land rights became an unstoppable movement.
The defence of liberal democracy, too, will grow to be an unstoppable movement that will sweep both co-government and Labour away.
- Richard Prebble is a former leader of the Act Party and former member of the Labour Party.