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PoliticsOctober 4, 2023

Election 2023: The co-governance and Te Tiriti o Waitangi policies in two minutes

A tino rangatiratanga flag.
(Photo by Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images)

What are the main parties saying about Māori political issues this election? has the full version, but we can tell you the basics in two minutes.

See more from our policy in two minutes series here.

This century, only the “Iwi v Kiwi” 2005 election is on par with this year’s campaign regarding discussions about Māori, Te Tiriti and allegations of race-baiting. Act and NZ First have opposed co-governance, reignited Treaty debates and, in the case of Winston Peters at least, claimed Māori aren’t indigenous – yet little attention has been paid to Te Pāti Māori promising to empower tāngata whenua through constitutional transformation. Although Labour ditched the controversial co-governance term, they and the Greens still progress its agenda. For brief explanations of Te Tiriti, co-governance and other Māori political policies this election, read below – but for deeper insights, visit our election tool


The Greens and Labour’s websites rarely mention co-governance, but they still support it – albeit more stealthily than last year. Both parties have strategically steered clear of the co-governance debate recently after they were scapegoated for it in 2022, even though National and Act instigated co-governance arrangements under John Key. 

Conversely, Act opposes co-governance. They don’t mind some existing initiatives like the Tūpuna Maunga Authority in Tāmaki Makaurau and the Waikato River Authority, but they’ll dissolve other arrangements. For example, Act wants to prevent Auckland from instituting Māori wards and will remove Canterbury regional council’s Ngāi Tahu representation. National also rejects local government Māori wards, whereas Labour intends to expand them

Act, National and NZ First agree that Te Aka Whai Ora plus Three Waters (now known officially as the Affordable Water Reforms) – with its co-governance element – should be canned. A specific example of NZ First rejecting power-sharing with Māori is their opposition to co-governing indigenous biodiversity

Image: Getty / Archi Banal

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Te Pāti Māori would institute a parliamentary Treaty commissioner – like the human rights commissioner – jointly appointed by tāngata whenua and the Crown. They also want Treaty impact statements included in all legislation, regulations and cabinet papers. 

Contrarily, Act wants to prevent government agencies from focusing their mahi on Te Tiriti. One example is removing the Oranga Tamariki Act’s Treaty clause that makes them work with tāngata whenua to reduce inequalities tamariki Māori face. However, Act’s preeminent Te Tiriti policy is rewriting the many Treaty principles into three succinct concepts that reject the idea of partnership. Act wants their principles to go to a binding public vote

The Greens would like to set up a commission to investigate land dispossession from Treaty breaches, said dispossession’s lasting legacy and where existing redress fails. Their other policies include training public servants about Te Tiriti and amending the Local Government Act so Te Tiriti underpins local decision-making.

The Waitangi Tribunal and Treaty settlements

Labour wants to expand Te Haetea, the online database for monitoring Treaty settlement commitments. Their potential allies, the Green and Māori parties, want to reform the Waitangi Tribunal and Treaty settlements by reopening historical claims, allowing individual hapū to negotiate claims, increasing tribunal funding and permitting the tribunal to make recommendations on private property. The Greens clarified that private property recommendations would be non-binding (TPM didn’t clarify). 

Te Pāti Māori wants council-owned land to be available for settlements. They also say Tribunal recommendations should be binding, and they’d implement unaddressed recommendations. Regarding settlements, Te Pāti Māori would remove fiscal limits, impose fewer claimant deadlines and abolish their “full and final” nature. 

Te Tiriti o Waitangi, seen in its resting place in Wellington’s Archives NZ building.

Constitutional transformation

Te Pāti Māori wants to establish a Māori parliament for indigenous policy and ditch the British monarchy. Another policy they champion is implementing the Matike Mai report. They also wish to place all tāngata whenua on the Māori roll. Their last constitutional transformation policy is entrenching the Māori seats, meaning 75% of MPs would need to vote in favour to ditch them. Regarding this kaupapa, the Greens are keen to establish a citizens assembly – based on Te Tiriti – to investigate constitutional changes.  

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and He Puapua

The Green Party wants to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – and its local strategy He Puapua – but both Act and NZ First oppose either document being enacted. 

Government entities

Act is campaigning on abolishing Te Puni Kokiri (the Ministry of Māori Development) plus Te Arawhiti (the Office for Crown-Māori Relations) while having their mahi covered by policy ministries, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage plus a reestablished Office of Treaty Settlements. Conversely, Labour wants to increase funding for Te Arawhiti. 

This is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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