Leader’s speech to 2021 Northern Regional Convention

Good afternoon delegates. It’s an absolute privilege to be speaking to you all here today as your leader.

Good afternoon delegates. It’s an absolute privilege to be speaking to you all here today as your leader.

I’d like to acknowledge National Party President Peter Goodfellow, my fellow board members, Sir Jim McLay, my northern colleagues and all of you, the members of the National Party. It is great to see you all here today.

Now is a critical time for the National Party. The past twelve months have been a challenging time; 2020 was a tough campaign.

But you, the members and volunteers, were and are fantastic. It’s one thing for you to all turn out to support National when we’re in Government, but last year you all proved your dedication by knocking on doors and putting up hoardings during what was a much tougher campaign. We really appreciate everything you did.

Through our internal review, we must reflect on the past three years. To dissect what went wrong and what changes need to be made. This is a key focus of our regional conferences this year.

But given that we have spent more than six months reflecting on our first term in Opposition, my message is that we now also need to look forward.

We need to talk about the big issues facing New Zealand right now, and into the future. We need to talk about what makes the National Party the party of choice to address these issues.

Many of you are saying that to make National relevant we need to remember and reemphasise our core party values – what we stand for; what makes National unique. I agree.

In order to address the big questions New Zealand is facing, we need to remember what sets National apart and makes us different from other political parties. We need to build the case for why National’s values will lead to better outcomes for New Zealanders in the areas that matter.

Those areas are better housing and communities, less traffic congestion, safer communities, better infrastructure, a sustainable environment, and more confidence in your local school.

New Zealanders want a more cohesive society where everyone is treated equally, where freedom of speech is maintained. These are the things people care about. These are the things that support strong communities and will support New Zealand to recover from Covid-19.

I believe the National Party’s values are strong. We will rebuild our public support by emphasising the values that have seen National in Government two out of every three years since 1950.

Fundamentally, New Zealand’s values are National Party values. We shouldn’t let an extraordinary twelve months question who we are and what we stand for.

You know National’s values are strong. You joined National because you share these values: loyalty to our country and sovereign as Head of State; National and personal security; equal citizenship and equal opportunity; personal responsibility and individual freedom; competitive enterprise and limited government; strong families and caring communities, and sustainable development of our environment.

These are strong values. They represent New Zealand, they represent me and they represent you. They are the values I believe in and work for. They are the values we will fight for. These are the values that will build support for National to win Government in 2023.

I believe National Party values are more relevant than ever, and I want to focus on two questions relating to our values today: what are New Zealand’s democratic principles and what does equal citizenship mean in a Treaty of Waitangi context?

The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document, and we should consider how we can reflect this in our National Party values. This work is underway.

The Treaty is also a powerful document that provides the context for a strong discussion to strengthen our values. It covers three basic but fundamental values that can already be seen reflected in National Party values.

Article 1, Kāwanatanga, establishes the Queen as our sovereign and head of state.

This speaks directly to our first National Party value of loyalty to our country and sovereign.

Article 2, Tino Rangatiratanga, confirms the property rights of all people. It establishes that all iwi, families and individuals have rights over their own land and property. Property rights are again a key democratic principle and core to National party values.

Article 3, Ōritetanga, most importantly, states all people have the same rights. Those three simple concepts – nationhood, property rights and equal rights – are a powerful foundation for a country, and a powerful foundation to consider our National Party values.

The preamble to the Treaty provides the context in which it was signed and should be read. The preamble states that the intention of the Treaty was to promote peace and avoid lawlessness. Again, directly in line with National Party values of national security and strong communities.

Now, it’s important to state upfront that the Treaty was breached, and those breaches – the New Zealand Land wars – have left Māori in a different position today, to where they would be had those breaches not occurred. The inequities we see today trace back to the actions of the past.

It’s right that we look to address these wrongs and it’s right that we undertake settlements with Iwi and Hapu impacted by Treaty breaches. We are proud of our track record in settling treaty claims, and our members can be proud of the support you gave us to do that.

But this is not the debate we find ourselves in today. The debate today has moved to: what is the role of the Treaty in our democracy going forward? Did the Treaty bring us together as one people, or split us apart as two?

The Labour Government, in developing its proposed health restructure, has said that we have a Treaty obligation to have separate systems.[1] They are demanding a model where we have separate health authorities – one for Māori and one for everyone else.[2]

Let me be clear, National agrees that there is room within a health system, based on need, for delivery programmes that target the needs of Maori and other groups. We have already walked that walk as the National Party, supported by our members. We have delivered and supported kohanga reo, kura kaupapa, and wānanga.

But this is not what Labour’s changes are about. Its changes are not based on addressing inequities. Labour has said its changes are about meeting Treaty obligations; and Labour has interpreted Article 2 and Tino Rangatiratanga as requiring Māori decision making at all levels of the system.[3]

The proposed Māori Health Authority will not only have the ability to commission its own work, but also the ability to veto decisions made by the Government on general health. [4]

Let me say that again, the proposed Māori Health Authority will not only have the ability to commission its own work, but also the ability to veto decisions made by the Government on general health – on everyone else’s health.

That is a veto power over $20 billion worth of Government health spending. That is not something that is designed to address inequities.

There are two relevant questions here, and it’s important we consider them both. First, is this what the Māori chiefs and Hobson imagined in 1840 when they agreed: we are now one people? And second, is this the way New Zealanders today, in 2021, want to move forward as a society? Do we want separation of governance along ethnic lines?

Māori do suffer from worse health outcomes than other segments of society, this is irrefutable, but this is best addressed by targeted programmes like Whānau Ora.

My view is that separate systems of governance is not what the chiefs and Hobson had in mind, and separate systems will lead to worse outcomes for everyone.

It will mean decisions are slow, fraught and inefficient. It changes the fabric of who we are as a society and it divides our communities.

New Zealand, like all countries, works best when we are one people.

And this is a broader issue than just health. Health Minister Andrew Little has told the Labour Government Cabinet that two systems are needed in Health to meet our Treaty obligations – and Jacinda Ardern’s Cabinet has signed off on this.[1]

Where then does this end, or does it end? If two separate systems are needed in health does that mean two systems are also required in education, justice and resource management?

The Government has commissioned work on this in the form of the report: He Puapua. I suggest you all have a read of it.

This divisive government document spells out a clear vision for New Zealand in 2040 under a ‘two systems’ Treaty view.

It includes two systems for health.[2]

Two systems of justice.[3]

There would be Maori governance in resource management.[4]

Foreshore and seabed to Maori ownership.[1]

The 2019 document proposes separate Māori wards in councils, which Labour has now done.[2]

And, finally, and most importantly, constitutional reform to consider matters such as a Māori Parliament or upper house.

I need to say that again, the Labour Government document, He Puapua, contemplates a separate Māori Parliament or upper house – able to veto any decision of the New Zealand Parliament.[3]

So, my message to Labour is this: New Zealand cannot and will not accept the implementation of two systems by stealth.

If Labour believes that the Treaty intended two systems for everything, and that this is the model we want in 2021, then this is a fundamental change to our society. We cannot accept this via a health reform, via Māori wards, and via justice changes.

It has to be a national conversation – one that has honest, respectful and open debate. A debate where every voice is heard. A clear vision for where it leads, and one that goes to a referendum if needs be. It cannot be snuck through.

Labour’s vision for New Zealand will divide us and take us backwards. By contrast, National will present a positive vision that takes us forward.

New Zealand needs National values right now to tackle our infrastructure deficit and get houses built. New Zealand needs a strong National Party that has the courage of its convictions and is able to deliver.

We live in a country where it takes decades to build, so we need Resource Management Act reform that will allow us to once again be a country that gets things done.

We need to get on with building housing, roads and infrastructure; a second harbour crossing for Auckland; the East West Link and Mill Road; fixing Auckland’s pipes and cleaning up the beaches; investing in more heavy rail and bus rapid transit; RMA reform that will deliver affordable housing and faster commutes; more economic growth; attracting the world’s best and brightest to come here; investing in science and growing our technology sector; empowering businesses and farmers to use science and technology to reduce emissions.

We know that enabling commerce enables Kiwis to work together and grow their own future. National wants a New Zealand that is ambitious for itself and New Zealanders who have the tools to succeed.

National will work for all Kiwis to ensure their hard work gets fair reward.

When the country is moving forward, New Zealanders have enough money in their pockets to afford the essentials; when the country is moving forward, houses are getting built and people can afford to buy them.

This is what will see our inequities addressed. This is what will see health outcomes improve for all. But more than that, it will mean all New Zealanders will grow up with aspiration and opportunity.

National wants more for New Zealand.  We know we have the ability to deliver in government. We believe in New Zealanders, and we firmly believe that we are better together.

Thank you.


The Cabinet Paper and Minute can be found here.

The He Puapua document can be found here.

The Cabinet minutes that established the He Puapua working group can be found here.

[1] - The Health and Disability System Review: Proposals for Reform Cabinet Minute (Cabinet Minute) Decision 28, “agreed that the Māori Health Authority should be independent of other health system organisations, and constituted in a way that gives effect to rangatiratanga and embeds the principle of partnership between Māori and the Crown”

[2] -The Health and Disability System Review: Proposals for Reform Cabinet Paper (Cabinet Paper) Appendix A (1)

[3] - Cabinet Paper, paragraph 10, “The Māori Health Authority must drive and monitor Māori health, but it must be a decision-maker too, consistent with the Crown’s Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations, and should therefore also have a significant commissioning role.”

[4] - Cabinet Paper, paragraph 52, “My expectation is that the Māori Health Authority should have a co-lead role in relation to national planning and in designing the key operating mechanisms that the system will use. This would require the Māori Health Authority to jointly agree national plans and operational frameworks (e.g. the commissioning framework), with clear approval rights including an ability to exercise a veto in sign-off” AND Cabinet Minute 32.1 and 32.3 agreed in principle the Māori Health Authority would “act as a co-commissioner” and “jointly develop national and regional strategies with Health New Zealand and will need to co-sign or approve before such plans or strategies come into effect”. (i.e. “co-sign or approve” in our view is the same as a veto)

See Cabinet Minute decision 31 re Māori Health Authority commission its own work.

[5]- Cabinet Paper paragraph 5 reflects Andrew Little advising Cabinet “The system does not operate in partnership or meet the Crown’s Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations, as found in the WAI2575 claim”. WAI2575 states, “We recommend that the following are adopted as the Treaty principles for the primary health care system… The guarantee of tino rangatiratanga, which provides for Māori self-determination and mana motuhake in the design, delivery, and monitoring of primary health care.”

And Cabinet Minute decision 28 agrees that the “Māori Health Authority should be independent of other health system organisations, and constituted in a way that gives effect to rangatiratanga and embeds the principle of partnership between Māori and the Crown”.

[6] - He Puapua, pages 85 and 87.

[7] - He Puapua, page 87.

[8] - He Puapua, pages 58 and 61.

[9] - He Puapua, page 58.

[10] - He Puapua, page 47.

[11] - He Puapua, page 38.