Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Māori self-determination is not something "to be afraid of", saying persistent inequities were evidence the traditional consultation approach "has not worked".
Ardern was speaking in response to further questions from Act and National around the report He Puapua, which lays out a road map for the country realising its obligations to Māori self-determination, and whether the proposed Māori Health Authority was part of a broader plan to implement separate, race-based systems "by stealth".
Act today revealed a draft Cabinet paper had been prepared along with a submission made by the Government to the United Nations about it.
The report was produced by a working group in 2019, tasked by the Government to recommend how New Zealand could realise its commitments under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
It draws together multiple documents and reports on Māori rangatiratanga, or self-determination, and includes a road map to 2040 by which time various co-governance and Māori-run arrangements could be in place, including a separate court and health system to address the huge inequities currently facing Māori.
The report has not made it to Cabinet level, and Ardern has said this was why it had not been made public. Delays in its release were also largely due to Covid-19, she said.
The Act party today revealed Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson received three papers over the past month about the report, including a draft Cabinet paper and another laying out the next steps for a Declaration plan.
Act also referred to a submission made to the United Nations which said New Zealand has a "commitment to a Declaration plan to implement the Declaration's objectives and goals" and being one of the first countries to do this.
This mirrored comments made by then Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta in 2019 even before He Puapua had been commissioned.
Act leader David Seymour said the report was only released after intervention from the Ombudsman, saying it was proof the Government wanted to keep it secret.
Seymour also claimed the submission to the UN mentioning the Māori Health Authority and Māori Wards as examples of implementing the Declaration were further proof the Government was not being honest about its intentions.
"If we're going to have a constitutional conversation it needs to be out in the open and not hidden the shadows, Jacinda Ardern seems intent on keeping any sunlight away from this important issue," Seymour said.
Health Minister Andrew Little ruled this allegation out earlier, stating he had not even read the report Seymour claims the authority was based on.
Seymour questioned Ardern on these matters in Parliament on Tuesday.
Ardern reiterated her view that the Government was continuing work started by National in 2010, when the government it then led signed up to the Declaration, which it also affirmed in 2014, agreeing to creating a road map to implement the plan.
"You cannot simply sign up to a document and not do anything about it," Ardern said.
On the Māori Health Authority, Ardern said this was consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi, and in "keeping with the principle all New Zealanders hold, of if something is not working, fix it".
"Māori are dying younger than all New Zealanders and we need to fix it.
"This is not something we should be afraid of. We have tried the traditional consultation style approach and it has not worked."
Minister Chris Hipkins pointed out the roots of such an authority were in article 23 of the UNDRIP, again which National had signed New Zealand up to.
Delays to releasing the report, provided to the Government in November 2019, publicly were due to Covid-19 and the election, Ardern said.
It had not yet been considered by Cabinet and thus the Government had no position on it, she said.
"Releasing it could have been misconstrued as policy, and I have to say the member has proven that to be completely correct."
Jackson told reporters he had met with the committee behind He Puapua and a draft paper was being prepared to take to Cabinet ahead of public consultation.
The report contained many different things including "a lot National has already signed up to", Jackson said.
He supported Ardern's comment ruling out suggestions like a Māori Parliament.
Some of the constitutional questions were "big issues", which was why the Government was going through a process, he said.