Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson says he is glad NZ First never saw the contentious He Puapua report, but denies it was "deliberately withheld".
In his first speech on Sunday since failing to be re-elected, former deputy prime minister Winston Peters claimed the 2019 report, which lays out how New Zealand can realise its commitments under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, was "deliberately suppressed".
Peters said He Puapua was never shown to his party, despite having four ministers and being in a coalition government at the time.
"This [He Puapua] report is a recipe for Māori separatism," he told Newstalk ZB.
"They knew it and that's why they suppressed it till after the election … it was a gesture of ingratitude and bad faith."
Jackson said Labour had not deliberately withheld the report from Peters, instead saying the "process" had been interrupted and with things like Covid-19 Nanaia Mahuta, the minister at the time, it had not been a priority.
This followed similar comments from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who denied the report had been kept from NZ First to avoid any strong reaction.
"As the Prime Minister said, we went through the process," Jackson said.
"But, in retrospect, it is probably good he didn't see it. Imagine what they would have done during the election. It was not deliberately withheld, just other issues got in the way. But I am pleased they didn't see 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.
It had not been publicly released, until Act and the National Party published versions obtained under the Official Information Act.
National leader Judith Collins said it showed the Government wanted to create "two systems by stealth".
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.
Jackson said work continued on considering the report, and an announcement on a Cabinet paper could be released next week.
He said the reaction from opposition parties and now NZ First was just "trying to get their vote up" and was contrary to the general views of New Zealanders.
"I think the country has grown up. I am really pleased with some of the responses to this. There has been a lot of fear-mongering but New Zealanders are mature and all this coming out of Winston is just nonsense.
"New Zealanders don't have to worry, I am not one talking about a separate Parliament, but that does need to be discussed by Māori. I think most New Zealanders understand it is nothing to fear, that Māori want to work hand in hand with Pākeha."