National Party strategists must be worried. Because Christopher Luxon keeps displaying this innate ability to open his mouth and then insert his foot.
The latest example concerns Co Governance. Luxon has this pattern of behaviour where he asks a million questions and then hints darkly that the reason the Government has not addressed these questions is because there is some sort of conspiracy afoot. With Co Governance there is the added benefit as far as National is concerned that questioning co governance is attractive to racists who make up a significant proportion of National’s potential support.
He was asked yesterday if he thought Maori seats were appropriate and replied that they did not make a lot of sense. From Radio New Zealand:
Historically, that has been something that we’ve said – look, one person one vote – that doesn’t make a lot of sense in our view,” Luxon replied.
“But the reality is, being quite pragmatic… the Māori seats have been present in our system for some time. They’re not going away.”
This raises major concerns about his understanding of the electoral system. Under MMP one person’s party vote is worth exactly the same as any other person’s party vote. And electorate seats, whether European or Maori, are designed to have approximately the same number of voters in them.
His understanding of Co Governance was very flawed. Again from RNZ:
We’ve understood the word co-governance to mean local government working with local iwi on the management of local natural resources in the context of Treaty settlements,” he said.
“What we’ve seen is that word has been taken and put into a completely different context with the creation of what would actually be separate and different delivery of public services. We do not want two systems of health, two education systems, two justice systems.
“Those issues that are of national importance in the delivery of public services are very different from localism and devolution where there is good partnership happening, and actually excellent results being achieved in the co-management or co-governance of local natural assets in the context of Treaty settlements.”
There are so many questions arising from this. Like why has National completed so many Co Governance arrangements like the Waikato River Treaty Settlement, the Tuhoe settlement, the Whanganui River Claims Settlement or a myriad of other arrangements. And why does he object to two education systems? Does he want to shut down all Kohanga Reo and Kura?
Former National Minister Chris Finlayson has earlier written this acerbic take on criticism of Co Governance which is still relevant. The article includes this gem:
“Co-governance” has become a term that people don’t understand. They think it means co-government.
People who are frightened by co-governance think they’ll be locked out of access to our natural resources, for example. When what it really means is that involving iwi in a myriad of decisions can actually result in a better country.
The people I call “the KKK brigade” are out there. They dream of a world that never was, and never could be. They are the people — and these words aren’t mine but are taken from a former British foreign secretary — that you can call the “sour right”. They don’t really understand tangata whenua. They don’t like change.
There are always going to be people like that, and you have to be reasonably charitable towards them for a while — and then just ignore them and get on with things.
He offers these thoughts on what Co Governance may include:
I think that “Treaty partnership” may, in fact, be a better term for the concept of co-governance. Because it reflects the reality that there are longstanding historical links that tangata whenua have with our natural resources.
Take the Wanganui River, for example. Iwi stood on the banks and watched their eel weirs be destroyed, watched hydroelectric developments harm the river, and watched farming practices pollute the water. They saw all of this, and because they have a fundamental belief that “I am the river and the river is me”, they had a duty to do something about it.
That’s where the whole idea of a Treaty partnership in relation to a particular natural resource comes in. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that.
His conclusion is also spot on:
I find these days in central government that there are many people who have learned a few mihi, can do a karakia, or can sing a waiata, but they still don’t truly get it. They’re obsessed with the form but not the substance. While those superficial things may help people feel good, they don’t capture what is required for our future.
I will continue to talk about co-governance as something to be embraced, not feared — and some people won’t like it. Bad luck.
We must be interested in, and talking about, the substance of power-sharing to make sure that we are continually breathing life into our Treaty and our agreements.
Luxon has learned some Te Reo and opened his speech at Ratana Pa in Te Reo. But he shows this really desire to denigrate any concession to Maori for political purposes. And he clearly does not get the substance of what a Treaty focussed approach to Governance involves.