It has taken too long to gain the most basic of Māori representation at the local and regional levels, that's why the Ngai Tahu Iwi are ecstatic over gaining two seats on the Canterbury regional council, despite opposition from National who previously supported this.
I salute my mate Rino Tirikatene, who led the process and those who have tirelessly worked for decades to see the Māori voice represented to ensure the partnership promised in the Treaty is fulfilled.
What makes this struggle for equality under the Treaty so much more difficult is when our colleagues in opposition pull political stunts to manipulate Kiwi ignorance of our past by weaponising "one person, one vote".
It is disgraceful that they would use such spiteful and racist dog whistles by claiming that the honouring of the Treaty amounts to a desecration of the "one person, one vote" democratic value. There are multiple examples from the democratic tradition they pretend to care about that shows "one person, one vote" is but one value within democracy, not the only value.
The House of Lords is not one person, one vote. The Electoral College is not one person, one vote. The Senate is not one person, one vote.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, our own country, thanks to MMP it is not one person, one vote, it's one person, two votes.
Why are Māori having to explain democracy to those claiming to protect it?
The opposition would not for one second claim the US or the UK weren't democracies, yet the moment New Zealand extends the universal suffrage of representation promised to the indigenous people of our country we suddenly see Act leader David Seymour and his National sidekick Christopher Luxon outraged.
We have found out in the past week that multiple property owners can vote in multiple local body elections, giving landowners more power than the poor. Watching National finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis struggle to answer why "one person, one vote" suddenly doesn't apply to rich landowners voting in multiple elections tells you all you really need to know about the right's sudden defence of "one person, one vote".
We live in a new democracy that works with one another and seeks genuine engagement to build bridges not walls.
Unfortunately, the right refuse to accept this maturing of our democracy and seek to frame co-governance as a racist evil by manufacturing "one person, one vote" outrage.
This is despite the very democratic system they claim to defend allowing for many values that go beyond that.
The greatest hypocrisy in the right's position against co-governance is that we are using the co-governance architecture that National and Act built. Whether they want to admit it or not, we have had a new democracy since MMP was introduced in 1996. That's when we got more women in Parliament, more Māori and then more Pasifika and ethnic minorities.
In 1996, Winston Peters chose a National government, while in 1999 he was a direct beneficiary of the new democracy that he won't acknowledge, when he took four other New Zealand First MPs into Parliament because he won his seat, despite the party polling under 5 per cent.
That could never have happened under the old democracy but is a reality under the new one. It's incredible how opposition politicians aided by prominent right-wing broadcasters refuse to accept that democracy has changed and focus only on the Māori aspects, peddling the lie that Māori are milking the system. My critics, of course, will point to Winston being Māori, but I don't think anyone in New Zealand politics has worked out where he's coming from.
The reality is National will utilise the new democracy as it suits them, then deny its existence.
This Government will not walk away from its obligations of co-governance which has been a significant feature of our democratic system since our shift from a majoritarian democracy to a mixed-member proportional representation in 1996. Whether the right want to admit it or not the facts are that we are now a more moderate, consensual and participatory democracy. This dramatic shift reflects our nation's desire for a government that is more inclusive of a diversity of views including minority voices. Ngai Tahu will now ensure those voices will be heard.
Willie Jackson is the Minister of Māori Development.