PM welcomed as co-governance on agenda at Iwi Chairs Forum

Chris Hipkins and Carmel Sepuloni. Kelvin Davis can also be seen in this photo.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and a contingent of senior ministers and staff have arrived at Waitangi.

Around 50 Government officials were welcomed by the Iwi Chairs Forum this morning.

Raniera Kaio, of Te Runanga o Whaingaroa, who are the hosts for this year's forum, spoke first and acknowledged the passing of Titewhai Harawira.

Minister Peeni Henare responded, also acknowledging Harawira, saying the Government and the iwi leaders were united through that.

Iwi Chairs Forum on February 2, 2023.

Henare also pointed out that in previous years, smaller government contingents had made the trip, but this year there was a large one. Co-governance, Three Waters and the Ngāpuhi Treaty settlement will be on the table for discussion.

Iwi chairman Jamie Tuuta told 1News he was concerned about the misinformation around the Three Waters. He said "the communications could've been better" on the reform, but that Māori were being used as a "political football" going into an election.

"Māori involvement has been used as a political football for those other political parties.

"That's the disappointing thing for the forum is this misinformation.

"One of the key messages we want to give to the prime minister and other ministers is that they need to stand up, they need to step up. And it's unacceptable — because again, the racist and biased attacks on Māori in 2023 are unacceptable," he said.

Language around co-governance discussed - Hipkins

Speaking to media after the forum, the prime minister said discussion centred around how iwi chairs are working with the Government on the "bread and butter issues" of housing, education and health, and the language around co-governance.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to media after the Iwi Chairs Forum.

Hipkins said "the breadth of our work programme as a Government" had contributed to issues communicating co-governance proposals.

"The more you're doing, the more confusing for people it can be" for those without detailed knowledge of the specific co-governance proposals, which he said vary depending on the context.

"Where there is a lack of clarity, that can lead to fear," a dynamic he said iwi chairs did not want surrounding co-governance.

"Politicians who use that fear or exploit that fear in order to gain political advantage really need to reflect on their own actions. That's something my government will never do."

The prime minister said both National and ACT were stoking uncertainty around co-governance for political gain.

Also asked whether New Zealand would consider removing the British monarchy from its bank notes as Australia has done, he said he hasn't "ever thought of that". But he said there will always be opportunities to be more New Zealand in the future "as we become a more independent and proudly independent nation".