The Government has announced the creation of new Māori Crown relations agency after New Zealand First objected to the first proposal for one.

The new unit, the Office for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti [the bridge] does not have the word partnership in its title.

It is understood that New Zealand First objected to "partnership" being in the title of the agency and the portfolio of the relevant minister, Kelvin Davis, as was originally proposed.

But the new agency puts "Māori" first in the title ahead of "Crown" in both the name of the agency and in the title of the portfolio. He was previously the Minister for Crown Māori Relations.


He will now be the Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said today that everybody was happy with the new agency and "the bridge" was a fantastic term.

"The fact is we need a bridge between what the past record has been and successful policies going into the future," Peters told reporters at Parliament.

Asked about the symbolism to put "Māori" ahead of "the Crown" in the title, Peters said: "If you are seeking to reach out to tell Māori that you have heard them, that you have got a plan to uplift their economic and social condition, then perhaps the first people you would mention are the people you are reaching out to – which is not the Crown in this case. This is the Crown in response."

Announcing the new agency, Davis said the name reflected feedback from hui he held across the country about his portfolio that Māori should appear first in the relationship.

"The Māori name, Te Arawhiti, refers to the transition phase we are in, that is 'the bridge' between Māori and the Crown," he said.

"The agency ... will help facilitate the next step in the treaty relationship – moving beyond the settlement of treaty grievances into what it means to work together in partnerships."

The new agency will consolidate several other offices into one agency, including the Crown-Māori Relations Unit, the Office of Treaty Settlements which negotiates treaty settlements on behalf of the Government, the unit considering foreshore and seabed claims (the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Team, and the settlement commitments unit.


According to Davis' statement, the agency will have responsibility for developing a new engagement model between Māori the public sector.

It will also provide leadership across the public sector on other matters "including the constitutional and institutional arrangements supporting partnerships between the Crown and Maori."

"While there are still some treaty grievances to settle, I heard from many Māori how they want to engage with the Crown on a range of issues that look to the future," Davis said.

Veteran Māori activist Titewhai Harawira and other members of an advisory group to Davis joined Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the Cabinet room last week for what had been billed to media as an announcement but none was made.

It was delayed for a week while further talks were held with New Zealand First.

Asked whether he believes the Treaty of Waitangi is a partnership between the Crown and Māori, Winston Peters told reporters he had never believed that, from the time Appeal Court Judge Lorde Cooke declared it to be in 1987.

"I said at the time if you can tell me why on February 5 [1840] in the UK in the British Empire at that time not one person was in partnership with Queen Victoria, how come two days later the Māori were?"

He was still waiting for the answer.

"Do I believe in Crown Māori partnerships with respect of a whole lot of ventures and enterprises, of course I do but that's not the reason why we should restrain, hold back Māori."