A leaked document from the Ministry of Justice warns the Government's proposed Treaty Principles Bill's key points are at odds with what the Treaty of Waitangi actually says.

1News has obtained exclusive details about the Bill, which could be introduced to Parliament as early as May.

But the ministry raises major compliance issues. It has sent the document, also known as a legal bid, to various Government departments for consultation.

The report's author says: "I expect the Bill may be highly contentious. This is due to both the fundamental constitutional nature of the subject matter and the lack of consultation with the public on the policy development prior to the Select Committee.

"The Bill will also change the nature of the principles from reflecting a relationship akin to a partnership between the Crown and Māori to reflecting the relationship the Crown has with all citizens of New Zealand. This is not supported by either the spirit of the Treaty or the text of the Treaty."

Te Pāti Māori has released one screenshot of the document, but 1News has been given the paper in full.

The document outlines what the new principles will be, in line with the Act Party's Treaty principle demands which were accepted as part of the coalition agreement with National and New Zealand First.

These are:

  • Article 1: The New Zealand Government has the right to govern all New Zealanders
  • Article 2: The New Zealand Government will honour all New Zealanders in the chieftainship of their land and all their property
  • Article 3: All New Zealanders are equal under the law with the same rights and duties

But the document says there has been no consultation with Māori on the Bill, despite it likely having a substantial impact on Māori rights.

"The Bill has the potential to come into conflict with the rights or interests of Māori under the Treaty because it is not derived from the spirit or the text of the Treaty," it says.

"Developing a Bill that purports to settle the Treaty principles without working with the Treaty partner could be seen as one partner (the Crown) attempting to define what the Treaty means and the obligations it creates."

The document also says the Bill will likely breach relevant international standards and obligations.

"The Bill may be seen as discriminatory and contrary to certain binding international standards such as the international covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

"In addition, the Bill removes an effective measure in our legal system to enforce the right of Māori to exercise self-determination, and cultural aspirations in the international standards and obligations above."

During the policy development, consultation will occur with Te Puni Kōkiri, Te Arawhiti, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The date requested for the introduction of the Bill is May 31, 2024.

In a statement Minister of Justice Paul Goldsmith said: “This is a draft Ministry of Justice document that has not been seen or considered by Cabinet.

"The coalition agreement is clear that the Government will support a bill on treaty principles to first reading. However Christopher Luxon has been clear that National has no intention to support it beyond that.”

Seymour responds

ACT leader David Seymour said that the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi has been twisted to give different groups of people different rights and that New Zealanders were "never consulted on this".

"We’re proposing a proper public debate on what the principles of the treaty actually mean, in the context of a modern multi-ethnic society with a place in it for all."

Referring to the leaked document, he said that "the public service has been knee deep in this interpretation so it’s not surprising advice mirrors this".

ACT's goal is to "restore the mana" of the Treaty by clarifying its principles, Seymour said.

"The Government has committed to advance this Bill to a select committee process. At this point, all New Zealanders will have the chance to be heard by MPs from across the political spectrum.

"The committee will then have an opportunity to recommend changes to the Bill. If the Bill is supported beyond the select committee stage, it will again be put to the public as a referendum.”

Seymour said that the Treaty Principles Bills and proposed referendum are "needed" to ensure healthy debate on New Zealand's future.

Image: People watch as kids jump off the bridge and go for a swim at Waitangi on February 6, 2021. Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

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