ACT makes commitment to a referendum on co-governance – but maybe it was too late for the capital’s morning newspaper

The Stuff team didn’t bring out the big headline type to report on a party political commitment of profound importance to anyone who cares about how and by whom we are governed. That – of course – should be everyone.

Stuff didn’t mention this commitment in the Dominion-Post (flagship of the Stuff fleet) – at least, Point of Order failed to find an account of it in our copy this morning, but maybe it was tucked away somewhere between some ads.  Or maybe the press release around 7:09 last night was too late.

An online Stuff report did report it but its headline brought the Maori Party’s highly predictable response into the reckoning:  New ACT Party policy branded ‘divisive’ and ‘bigoted’ by Māori Party

The online report opened:

A new ACT Party policy calling for “a referendum on co-governance” has been branded “divisive”, “bigoted” and “appealing to racists” by the Māori Party.

Thus the emphasis was heaped not on ACT’s announcement of a commitment to strengthening our democracy and to enabling voters to determine how we are governed.

Stuff opted, rather, to highlight the hostile position of a party whose leadership does not enthusiastically champion democracy.  

According to Newshub, Maori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi has declared:

“We need to start looking at how Maori can participate more equally and equitably in that particular space in a tiriti-centric Aotearoa. Not in a democracy, because… democracy is majority rules, and indigenous peoples – especially Maori at 16 percent of the population in this country – will lose out, and we’ll sit in second-place again.”

Let the record show that ACT won 7.6% of the party vote at the general election in 2020 and holds 10 seats in Parliament. The Maori Party vote declined from 1.18% in 2017 to 1.17% in 2020. They won the Maori electorate of Waiariki, giving them the right to bring a second MP into Parliament.

ACT’s proposals to buttress our democracy are:

  • At the next election, it will be campaigning for a referendum on co-governance (a sure way of measuring the strength of support for the insidious expansion of Crown-tribe co-governance arrangements under recent governments).
  • The next Government should pass legislation defining the Principles of the Treaty, in particularly their effect on democratic institutions. Then the people should be asked to vote on it becoming law.

Seymour said:

“This is what we did this with the End of Life Choice Act, Parliament passed the law and the people ratified it at referendum.

“ACT has been listening to New Zealanders. As I travelled the country on our “Honest Conversations Tour” co-governance was an issue I heard about time and again.

“The great promise of New Zealand is that everyone’s equal. For generations people have travelled long distances to give their children a better tomorrow in this little country where everyone gets an equal chance.”

Seymour contended that Labour is trying to make New Zealand an unequal society on purpose.

“It believes there are two types of New Zealanders. Tangata Whenua, who are here by right, and Tangata Tiriti who are lucky to be here.”

He rejects this because:

“No society in history has succeeded by having different political rights based on birth. Many New Zealanders came here to escape class and caste and apartheid.

“All of the good political movements of the past four hundred years have been about ending discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex and sexuality to treat each person with the same dignity. We are the first country in history that’s achieved equal rights and has division as its official policy. It’s nuts.”

Then he raised the issue of the Treaty of Waitangi and its vexing flexibility, so that it means whatever the government of the day says it means.

The Treaty Principles Act would define the Principles of the Treaty as.

  1. All citizens of New Zealand have the same political rights and duties
  2. All political authority comes from the people by democratic means including universal suffrage, regular and free elections with a secret ballot
  3. New Zealand is a multi-ethnic liberal democracy where discrimination based on ethnicity is illegal

“For the avoidance of doubt, these principles prevail over any contradictory enactment by Parliament, or finding on the matter of Treaty Principles by the Courts.

“If a majority of electors voting in a referendum support this Act coming into force, this Act would come into force on date on which the official result of that referendum is declared.

“The effect of the referendum would be to flip the debate on our constitutional future.”

Over the past 40 years, Seymour said, the courts and Waitangi Tribunal have quietly made co-governance our unquestioned and unquestionable destiny.

Enough is enough.

“In a public debate they would be flushed out. They would have to explain why they believe some people are born with different political rights and duties. They would have to explain why some political authority should come from sources other than free and fair elections with universal suffrage.

“That is a debate worth having.”

Seymour predicts there would be one of two outcomes.

  • One is that the world has gone mad, people really do want to be part of a quaint and illiberal South Pacific constitutional experiment. Our future would be bleak, but we’d know where we stand.
  • Much more likely, we would assert as a country that we are a modern, multi-ethnic, liberal democracy looking to go forward in the world.

“By ending the obsession with constitutional reform, we could get stuck into the real problems in education, housing, welfare and crime that Māori get the worst end of. We would use innovative and practical solutions that change real peoples’ lives for the better. Charter schools were just the start of that.

“Something else far more important would happen. People who feel alienated would find a place in the Kiwi identity. Māori culture could be taken for what it is, a rich and essential part of New Zealand’s tapestry that is no threat but there to be embraced, along with every other culture that makes up our country.   

“ACT says every child born in New Zealand, and everyone legal immigrant, has the same rights. Those are the rights of a citizen. Nobody should get an extra say because of who their great grandparents were. Nobody should have to be treated differently because of who they are.”

ACT has launched a petition that can be found at

2 thoughts on “ACT makes commitment to a referendum on co-governance – but maybe it was too late for the capital’s morning newspaper

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