< May 2022 newsletter

'Others' not consulted on Declaration Plan

Photo: Andrew Little, Nanaia Mahuta, Jacinda Ardern, Kelvin Davis and David Parker at the 2018 National Iwi Chairs Forum.

Alarm bells are ringing after Māori leaders expressed monumental ambitions during initial discussions with the Government about how to recognise the highly controversial United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The Minister for Māori Development, Willie Jackson, says those discussions will shape the Government’s Declaration plan. 

Māori leaders have told the Government that co-governance is not enough to satisfy the indigenous rights declaration, and that a focus on tino rangatiratanga could see the Crown’s role significantly devolved. 

Following a six-month engagement process restricted to Māori organisations and groups, Minister Jackson recently announced the drafting of the Plan is set to commence. This plan is expected to be released later this year, with the intention to finalise the document in early 2023. 

The Government has appointed the Iwi Chairs Forum to work in collaboration with the Human Rights Commission and Te Puni Kōkiri to draft the plan.

The National Iwi Chairs Forum (NCIF) has a driving ambition to co-govern the country. There is a distinct danger that this will be seen as further opportunity to end our current constitutional arrangements and install a system of power-sharing between Māori and the Crown.

NCIF has been campaigning for constitutional transformation since 2009. New Zealand’s endorsement of UNDRIP in 2010 was seen as a major step in this quest. As former Waitangi Tribunal Chairperson, Eddie Taihakurei Durie said in his “Address on the Declaration” statement given May 2010, at Parliament:

“We have completed the trilogy. The 1835 Declaration acknowledged Indigenous self-determination. The 1840 Treaty upheld it within the structures of a State. This Declaration [UNDRIP] now confirms it and says how it should be applied. As rights go, that’s a big step. It fills the gaps in the Treaty of Waitangi.”

To further advance the constitutional transformation NCIF is seeking, in 2016 the Forum instigated Matike Mai Aotearoa, the report of a working group led by Māori sovereignty activist Professor Margaret Mutu. This report drew on self-serving interpretations of the 1835 Declaration of Independence, the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, and UNDRIP, to strongly advocate for a Treaty-based constitution with equal power-sharing between Māori and the Crown.

NCIF was also involved in the establishment of the Independent Monitoring Mechanism, led by Margaret Mutu, in order “to promote and monitor the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”. 

In 2019 the Labour Government appointed a technical advisory group, the Declaration Working Group (DWG), “to support the provision of advice on the form and content of a Declaration plan.” This news was roundly supported by the National Iwi Chairs Forum spokesperson and lead author of Matike Mai, Professor Margaret Mutu, who said: 

“Iwi are pleased that Government has decided to work in partnership with us to develop a plan to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” 

Later that year, the working group produced its report - He Puapua, which is largely based on the claim that the Treaty of Waitangi created a 50:50 “partnership” between Māori and the Crown. It has much in common with the constitutional changes set out in Matike Mai Aotearoa. He Puapua also relies heavily on a distorted interpretation of the 1835 Declaration of Independence and the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi in order to call for major constitutional change.

The ideas endorsed in He Puapua were seen as so radical that the Government hid the report from the public for two years, until it surfaced only months after the 2020 election. Due to public backlash, the Government was compelled to publicly distance itself from it. However, they did signal the intention to draft a Declaration plan in consultation with Māori.

What about all other New Zealanders? This is our country too!

How the Government chooses to proceed will have major implications for the future of all New Zealanders. We all deserve to have a say in the development of the draft plan. But it is only after it has been drafted - based on the feedback arising from engagement with Māori - that consultation with other New Zealanders will begin, purportedly later this year. This is far too late for any meaningful input from the wider community.

Given who is involved in the drafting of the plan, it is highly likely that Māori rights and interests are set to take precedence over the rights of other New Zealanders. That is, unless we make it known to the Government that this is unacceptable, and demand that any plans in the name of UNDRIP must be compliant with our existing constitutional arrangements, and uphold the values of democratic equality, the rule of law and universal human rights for all New Zealanders.

The Prime Minister has indicated she is relaxed about the two-tier system of engagement and is happy to let everyone else wait until the Declaration plan has been developed before allowing wider public comment. Click HERE  to watch David Seymour question the PM about this matter during question time 3 May 2022 (starts at 8:08).

Don’t wait to be asked – make your voice heard. Please contact your MP – especially Labour MPs. You can find their contact details on the New Zealand Parliament website.


United Nations: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 

Iwi Chairs Forum: Report of the Independent Monitoring Mechanism regarding the Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand, July 2018

Te Puni Kōkiri: UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 

Te Puni Kōkiri: A Declaration plan in Aotearoa Information Booklet, February 2022

Te Puni Kōkiri: Drafting to commence on Declaration Plan, targeted engagement feedback released, 26 April 2022

Dr Muriel Newman: Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


Te Ao Māori News: Indigenous rights declaration plan one step closer to implementation22 April 2022

RNZ: Government begins drafting indigenous rights plan22 April 2022

Stuff: Co-governance not enough to satisfy indigenous rights declaration, Government told, 22 April 2022


If you want to read more about how "third-generation" rights as outlined in UNDRIP are undermining democracy, read : How “Collective Human Rights” Undermine Individual Human Rights, posted 25 June 2020 on The Heritage Foundation website.


Willie Jackson's late uncle Moana Jackson served as the Chair of the Indigenous Caucus of the United Nations Working Group on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which produced the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He then went on to produce Matike Mai Aotearoa alongside Margaret Mutu, who is involved in producing the Declaration Plan

Go back to the May 2022 newsletter



Towards the end of 2022 Democracy Action commissioned Professor James Allan, of the University of Queensland, to produce an analysis of the He Puapua Report  - a report that calls for highly controversial constitutional change. Specifically, we sought Professor Allan’s opinion on the implications for New Zealand’s liberal democracy in adopting recommendations made in He Puapua, and what this would mean for the future of New Zealand. Continue reading

Minister Jackson working to adopt UNDRIP

The next step in the process to develop a plan for New Zealand to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was kicked off last month with a targeted engagement strategy aimed at ensuring as many Māori voices as possible get to share their views on what should be included in a Declaration plan. Continue reading

The campaign to implement UNDRIP continues

An associate professor at the University of Auckland Law School, Dr Claire Charters, is currently working on articles on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the relationship between tikanga Māori and the state legal system, tensions between human rights and indigenous peoples' rights and on the legitimacy of indigenous peoples' rights under international law, which will be published as a book by Cambridge University Press.  Continue reading

Plan underway to implement UNDRIP

The Ministry of Maori Development, is developing a plan to progress the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Given the serious implications of this declaration, and the adoption of an engagement process with iwi, hapū and whānau, but not the wider community, the government needs to hear from us. Continue reading

Margaret Mutu pushing for implementation of UNDRIP

Margaret Mutu, current leader of the Iwi Chairs Forum, is pushing for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, (UNDRIP), claiming the Minister for Maori Development, Nanaia Mahuta, is supportive. See media release ‘Iwi Pleased with Government Decision to Develop a Plan of Action for Indigenous Rights’ and listen to a Waatea News interview with MUTU by clicking HERE Continue reading

Labour’s policy on so-called ‘partnership’ between Crown and Maori

Despite NZ First scuppering the inclusion of the word "partnership" in the new Maori Crown agency's name – it is still used in the description of what the new agency will do. Crown-Maori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis said the new agency, Te Arawhiti, would 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". Continue reading

LGNZ's Campaign to Abolish the Poll Provision

Local Government NZ (LGNZ) is campaigning vigorously to abolish the sections the Local Electoral Act 2001 which relate to the rules for binding citizens initiated polls concerning the establishment of Maori wards. The members of National Council of LGNZ want its members to be able to impose Maori wards unchecked - thereby depriving members of local communities of an individual democratic right expressly written into law. For a comprehensive and well researched essay on this issue, please click HERE. This essay, authored by Michael Coote - a freelance writer and financial journalist - was published on the NZCPR website on 22nd April. Michael explains what LGNZ is seeking, and the reasons why. Continue reading