Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka says a historic hui at Tuurangawaewae Marae was positive and constructive, showing deep concern among Māori over the direction of the Treaty of Waitangi.

About 10,000 people attended the hui called by the Kiingitangi at the weekend about the coalition Government’s plans for Māori.

The discussion included strong opposition to the Treaty Principles Bill.

Potaka told Corin Dann on Morning Report a debate about the principles was happening every day and there needed to be conversations on where it might take the country.

“We’ve been very clear to the motu during our campaign and… coalition agreement to encourage discussions about the Treaty of Waitangi. However we’re also very clear that we will not support an unhelpful referendum on Treaty principles that will be divisive.”

Last week, a draft memo was leaked from the Ministry of Justice about the Government’s proposed Treaty Principles bill.

Te Pāti Māori’s co-leader Rawiri Waititi posted a screenshot of the leaked document on social media on Friday, saying it showed the Government’s “intentions to erase Te Tiriti o Waitangi”.

Potaka said he understood it was a draft and he had not seen the full contents of the document.

“A debate about the [Treaty] principles is something that we do every day and how far we can go with the Treaty and its principles and where does it take us.

“My absolute focus is to acknowledge the Treaty as the foundational document at the start of this country… past, present and future, it is fundamental to our nation. And… there are a few things like Treaty settlements that continue to be unresolved and we need to address them.”

National has said that it would not support ACT’s Treaty Principles bill progressing forward. Asked whether ACT leader David Seymour would be able to change their mind, he said their focus was on “the Kotahitanga [unity] vine… that is the core element of the Treaty of Waitangi… [and] that unity was well espoused in a positive and constructive manner out in Ngaaruawaahia.

“If those proposed principles are pushed through… a draft bill that is proposed as a referendum, as we’ve discussed before… [National] will not be supporting a referendum based on those matters, however we are yet to see the draft bill in full.”

He said the weekend’s hui was a “marvellous show of mana motuhake and kotahitanga. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that in my lifetime.”

Potaka said there had been diversity of thought and opinion at the hui, but there was an “absolute unity and kotahitanga around core Māori community and iwi leadership to come together… and [not only] reflect on their engagement with government but, more importantly, on where we’re going as Māori communities and as iwi… that was probably a greater message that emerged from the hui.”

Asked whether he would resign as minister if the Treaty Principles bill passed into law, he said he would not get into a conversation about resignation on national radio.

“My obligations are to the Prime Minister and my electorate here in Hamilton West, and I’m very honoured and privileged to be the Minister of Māori Development and Māori-Crown relations, among other things.”

Asked about the nature of negotiations under a coalition agreement between three parties, Potaka responded: “It’s incumbent on us – and yourself included, Corin – not to get polarising about these critical issues to our country’s present and future.

“We have to interrogate where we’re going as a country and the number one kaupapa in front of me is kotahitanga and unity, and that’s what I’ll continue to espouse, as I have done in previous occupations.”

He and Prime Minister Christopher Luxon would be doing this “kanohi ki te kanohi” [face-to-face] now, at Ratana and Waitangi in coming weeks, “and beyond, as National leaders have done over the last 80 years”.

rnz.co.nz

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