Winston Peters: Co-Governance is not Democracy

The following speech was given at the UnifyNZ Public Meeting by the Right Honourable Winston Peters on August 21st, 2022 in Warkworth.


Good afternoon, and thank you for the invitation to speak to you this afternoon.

And thank you for taking time out in your busy lives to be here.

Recent political developments in New Zealand are of grave concern to all those who believe in democracy, freedom and the rule of law in our country.

We meet here today the beneficiaries of our forebears’ vision 168 years ago (1854) to govern New Zealand with democratic principles.

In the broad canvas of history, down through thousands of years, democracy is a most rare form of government.

We no longer can take the sound governance of our country for granted.

As you know modern New Zealand emerged from colonisation by the British, many centuries after Māori arrived in New Zealand.

The British themselves historically had been colonised many centuries before in their own country.

We fortunately long ago ceased to be a colonised country.

In the process since gaining self-government we have dropped the bad parts of colonisation.  

We have dropped a class-based society in favour of equality for all. 

We have dropped the tyranny of the few in favour of democracy for the many. 

We have dropped privileged autocracy in favour of the rule of law. 

We have dropped government by an elite few in favour of one person, one vote, - with each vote being of equal value. 

Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Of the people, By the people, For the people’ has also been our shared aspiration.

At a time when there was no universal franchise anywhere in the world we nevertheless made a start towards a goal of one person, one vote. 

Then in 1867 four seats were established as the beginnings of Māori representation in Parliament and in 1893 we were the first country to give women the vote. 

This small country in 1893 was setting out to be a world leader in democracy.

The pathway of democracy in New Zealand has been far from smooth or perfect.

The evolution of social order rarely is.



However, since 1854 New Zealand has, with two wartime exceptions, had an unbroken line of elections every three years, and only 8 other countries around the world share that proud claim. 

On our journey for fairer representation New Zealand has had many firsts. 

In 1993 New Zealanders in a referendum chose to move from First Past the Post to Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), and our first MMP election was held in 1996. 

The 1980’s Royal Commission on electoral reform which led to the 1993 referendum said that, in time, MMP would prove in its diversity of representation that there would be no further need for the Māori seats.

From the early 1900s until 1975, to register on the Māori roll one had to qualify as having half or more Māori ancestry. 

The Labour Government of 1975 changed that prescription so that all one had to have to qualify on the Māori roll was the ability to recite a Māori ancestor. 

That means today that even someone with 1 part Māori in 512 qualifies for the Māori roll. 

On that basis, and by the 1975 electoral prescription, the majority of Māori today are on the general roll not the Māori roll. 

Until 1978 only four Māori had ever won representation in a General seat. James Caroll 1893, Ben Couch and Rex Austin in 1975, and myself in 1978. 

However, since MMP in 1996 many MPs with Māori ancestry have entered Parliament and in far greater proportion than their ethnic numbers in New Zealand. 

The Royal Commission’s expectation was correct. 

Against that brief historical backdrop recent political developments are justifiable cause for alarm at where our country’s democracy is heading.

Sadly today we are facing a government ‘Of some people, By some people, For some people’.

Labour is destabilising our democracy. 

Their baseless excuse for doing this is a manipulation and distortion of the Treaty of Waitangi, with the intent of giving overriding power to Iwi. 


Neglect of Māori Needs

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are four critical things that Māori want:

  1. Safe, affordable housing.
  2. Ready access to our health system should they need it.
  3. Access to a first world education system where their young can progress as far as their ambition and commitment can take them, and
  4. First world incomes.

Free to be equal because they have been trained to be.

These Māori aspirations are not unique. 

All over New Zealand that is what everybody needs.

And all over the world that is what all people want, and enlightened governments understand that.

However, today in New Zealand the present Labour government is doing very little for those four needs and everything for ‘cultural trickle down’. 

Labour, and their cultural fellow travellers, have a mistaken belief that plastering the public sector with Treaty references and Māori unintelligible titles will by some process of mysterious political osmosis improve the lot of the whanau, or Māori family. 

They are wantonly blind to the grave dangers of separatist policies and indeed the lessons of history.

And believe this.  The greatest victims of these policies will be ordinary Māori, in whose name and numbers these misguided policies are claimed in the first place. 

Majority Māori numbers are ignored whilst elite minority Māori interests prevail.

The Civil Rights movement in the United States saw black Americans seeking to break down the doors to access the best institutions white Americans enjoyed.

Black Americans kept their eyes on the prize and ended up with countless black representatives, and a black American President chosen in an open franchise.

In contrast, back here all sorts of separate race based institutions have become the norm. 

Back here Labour is tampering with our democracy at our peril. 

You’ve all heard of Labour's plans for Three Waters.  Except on the details you want to know about Labour’s plan, they simply don’t make sense.

And that is because cleaning up and securing our water systems, which everyone agrees with, is a trojan horse, a camouflage for Labour’s hidden agenda of separatism. 

Under Labour’s Three Waters, four new massive water agencies will control our water assets and water infrastructure.

You will pay their costs directly.

A twelve-member Board will control each new agency.

6 will come from local Iwi and 6 will come from the local Councils – the very Council’s who, in your name, provided the assets.

And here’s the rub.

75% of each new Board must agree before a decision can be arrived at.

Do the maths.

Who will have the final say?

Your Council or the local Iwi?

In the whole of the South Island the 20 local body authorities will have 6 seats in total.

This screams unfairness, inequity, and malignant bias.

No amount of smiling and hand waving at the camera can disguise what’s going on here.

Labour wants to take community owned assets, owned by all New Zealanders of widely diverse backgrounds, and strip them away from their rightful owners and hand them to shadowy corporations. 

These unaccountable creatures will be all powerful, and as the Auditor General has already warned, not accountable to the community. 

These shadowy corporations will bypass you in favour of private Māori Tribal corporations becoming water barons. 

These corporates were not created to advance the public interest - but to inflate the elite interests of some of their own members. 

If they are allowed to exist the mass majority of all New Zealanders, regardless of ethnic background, will pay and suffer for it. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, when did Labour ever ask you for your consent to these changes, to your assets and your ownership?

All manner of changes are being dumped upon New Zealanders that were never mentioned in the run up to the 2020 election. 

In short, a government that is fanatical about mandates, on these matters, has no mandate. 

This is their ‘pandora theory’. 

Once out of the box, once they have established it in law, they believe you won’t be able to change it.  This is a single finger salute.

This is a politically divisive agenda, based on their version of Treaty rights, that was hidden from voters at the last election. 

Their claims of being ‘the most transparent government ever’ is being exposed daily for the charade it is.


Co-governance means Bro-governance

Everyday, at a time of economic and social crisis, Labour is pressing on with co-governance, shorthand for bro-governance.

So many of you are struggling to make ends meet. 

So many of you are busy with the necessities of life, families, and work.

Who has the time to keep up with this government’s cultural and political re-engineering? 

Take for example our new health agency – or Whatu ora. 

Everywhere Labour is hell bent on fertilising their projects, policies or organisations with artificial Māori names. 

All communication is about understanding and if over 95% of the country can’t understand the words they are hearing, or reading, what is the purpose here?

I say artificial because Whatu ora, literally means the satisfied eye. 

So which eye are you the public being shown as Labour cracks on with it’s ‘wokemana ideology’. 


Cultural Entitilitus

Sadly these manufactured names represent a type of ‘cultural entitilitus’, caused by Labour fabricating the Treaty to suit their agenda of co-governance.

‘Cultural entitilitus’ is a condition where Māori tribes have not an equal say but a privileged say in our system of public governance. 

An egregious example is the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngai Tahu Representation) Act, stopped back in 2019 by NZ First, but recently re-introduced and passed in Parliament in our absence.

This law allows Ngai Tahu to appoint up to two members to the Environment Canterbury Council with full decision-making powers.

Everyone else in Canterbury has to campaign including other Māori, but not Ngai Tahu.  Is that the democratic future you voted for in 2020?

And what an irony. 

As this was rammed down the country’s throat just days ago, so has been the name change to our country.  Aotearoa was never the Māori name for New Zealand.

On this attempted change the government has, No mandate,  No referendum and No vote from you. 

Again, when did they ever ask you what you think.

We have spent billions of taxpayers and private dollars trying to sell our country’s name to the international market.

Exports is our life blood. 

It's one of the critical drivers behind our economic wealth.

Exports, not the government printing money, is one pathway to a better future.

And the name of the country behind our exports has been a critical part of our market.

Yet, everyday on television and radio, using your taxpayer funds without any consent from you, they seek to impose a name change on our country.

It’s as though what you think doesn’t matter.

And the further irony is the arrogance of imposing a name change for New Zealand whilst ignoring the whole of the South Island and Ngai Tahu. 

Ngai Tahu’s name for the South Island is Te Waipounamu.

So Ngai Tahu get two people on the Council and lose their majestic name and mana of the place where they live.

This is an insult to Ngai Tahu.

This is an insult to every South Islander.

This would be comical if it wasn’t so serious.


Treaty Entitilitis

Sadly, Treaty Entitilitis is spreading in government and bureaucracy everywhere. 

Even the police are not immune. 

Their belated anti-gang push is called Tau-whiro – a phase of the Māori calendar. 

And Labour has established a separate Māori Health Agency or Te Aka- a word which means tap root.

This is just more woke elitism.

Labour believes it knows best, and New Zealanders are growing more alarmed. 

They know Labour has no authority to rank our citizenship based on race. 

A system change where the Treaty override means a Māori veto for so many policies at the central or local government level.

If you doubt that, look at the Resource Management Act. 

This statutory rat’s nest has led to a distortion of Māori beliefs.

Local Council proceedings, dealing with your issues, are bogged down with unmandated cultural mutation. 

Too many have become afraid to challenge many fairylike accounts of history.

And the cultural gatekeepers and fellow travellers dismiss alternative views and perspectives as being racist or members of the ‘tin hat brigade’.

A gaslighting cancel culture is growing in New Zealand and we need to stop it in it’s tracks, right here, right now.

Largely untested, often indulged, these tikanga traffickers are a paralysis on development.

And its adding huge hidden costs to so many ordinary individuals and businesses – huge cost to all New Zealanders including Māori.

Private property rights are taken hostage while Māori cultural statutory provisions are twisted and turned. 

If you doubt this ask your lawyer, or developer, what percentage of cost increase this has meant on your new house purchase? 

What was once one of the greatest property-owning democracies in the world is rapidly sliding into housing unaffordability and crippling renting for life.

And all the while the critical four issues to uplift Māori development are gathering dust.  

Treaty Entitilitus is a diversion, a detour, a roadblock to real Māori progress. 

Having miserably failed Māori in the four things they really want, today’s Labour Party, with a largely bought off compliant press, boast about progress on the things that ordinary Māori never asked for, whilst ignoring those needs they do ask to be addressed. 

The recent diatribe by the Hon Willie Jackson which slams the ‘one person, one vote’ outrage is alarming not only for its content but its ignorance of history, facts and the essence of democracy.

He claims that the recently passed Ngai Tahu Bill is how a “partnership promised in the Treaty is fulfilled”.  Apparently, those that disagree are weaponising ‘one person, one vote’, a piece of linguistic gymnastics that no democrat can follow.

Leaping from the UK to the USA he opines that the UK House of Lords is not one person one vote, and that the US Electoral College is not one person, one vote.

This is chilling.

Clearly an absence of historic understanding of how those two institutions began, or exist, is not of concern to him.

Then he trumps that, excuse the pun, with a claim that with MMP ‘it’s one person, two votes’.

The fact that every voter is at the same level whether they vote one time or twice, under MMP, totally escapes him.

That is the prelude to his claim that ‘the moment NZ extends the universal suffrage of representation promised to the indigenous people of our country there is outrage’.

Which begs the question.

Where is the constitutional and legal expert leading the charge on the government’s behalf on these matters?

There isn’t one. Not visibly.

But there is a Treaty gravy train with all manner of advisors making a fortune out of these changes.

There are many Māori businesses in this country that don’t need paternalistic, ‘we know best for you’ treatment from central or local government.


Does the Treaty mean Partnership?

It is truly staggering that a claim of partnership for Māori is being made based on the Treaty of Waitangi, when Queen Victoria was not in partnership with anyone, in the UK, or the British Empire, on the day before the 6th of February 1840, or the day after. 

There was no universal suffrage anywhere in the world in 1840.

Hence to say universal suffrage was in the mind of either the British or the Māori on the 6th February 1840 is just ludicrous.

And then if local body representation is a direct connection of ratepayers to democracy, then why would someone paying rates in a local body area not be entitled to a vote in that local body election.

And Labour parliamentarians recently claimed that they would sort out that ‘anomaly’ too.

Wherever they vote, if ratepayers have more than one property in more than one local body area, their vote is worth the same as any other rate payer in that local body area. 

A municipal evolution of the ‘no taxation without representation’ complaint which led to the American War for Independence, is now being regarded by some members of parliament as wrong.


A Williemander

Then, in an extraordinary leap of logic, Willie excuses the current government’s attempts to gerrymander democracy as a ‘genuine engagement to build bridges not walls’.  This is a Williemander.

Sadly, he’s right when he says ‘we are using the co-governance architecture that National and ACT built.

Mr Jackson’s defence is that ‘we have a new democracy' since MMP was introduced in 1996. 

More women, more Māori, and then more Pacifica and ethnic minorities’ in parliament. 

Strange that - because I don’t recall when as one who was on the front line of that campaign for MMP back in the late 80’s and early 90’s ever seeing Willie Jackson or his ilk in that campaign.

As previously mentioned, the Royal Commission that led to MMP foresaw that in time many more Māori in Parliament would do away with the Māori seats. 

Yet having grabbed the best of MMP, Willie and his ilk do not want to give up the worst of First Past the Post.

When NZ First arrived in Parliament as a Party in 1993 it was under First Past the Post, not MMP.

Again, the sad thing is that while many politicians push or succumb to pet projects for a certain Māori elite, the mass majority of Māori needing Housing, Health, Education and First World Incomes, remain on the scrap heap of their political concerns.

The proponents of co-governance base their arguments on the Treaty being a partnership.  How they arrived at that conclusion is a legal, constitutional and linguistic mystery. 

They have never been able to explain the origins and historical foundation for their claims. 

Nor can they tell us why former Māori leaders in this country of the intellectual and cultural superiority of Sir Apirana Ngata, Sir Maui Pomare or Sir Peter Buck never made the claims that these legal and constitutional revisionists are making. 

The moment the Court of Appeal in the 1987 ‘Lands Case’ handed down its judgement, certain Māori, having protested for years that the ‘Treaty is a fraud’, all of a sudden started arguing that the Treaty was a partnership. 

And sadly, since 1987, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in our universities teaching students a distortion of that case. 

When asked to explain what in that case gives them the right to make a claim of partnership they avoid answering in favour of their own misconceived interpretation. 

Partnership in a constitutional and legal sense was never ever part of that 1987 case. 

But it’s on the deliberate misconstruction of that case that claims have been made over, and over, and over again.  

The fact that their claims would have required the Court of Appeal in 1987 to ignore the words and meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi is flippantly dismissed. 

In the Treaty of Waitangi governance was conferred on the Crown. 

The tribal leaders ceded, conceded or yielded government to the Queen. 

That is why down through the decades Māori have often sought, when in dispute with a New Zealand government, to take their complaint to the British Monarch. 

The rule of law is enshrined in the Treaty by reason of the Treaty’s promise of equality. 

And in addition, equality under the law is a basic element of the rule of law. 

And that means policies that create inequalities under the law are repugnant to the rule of law. 

Likewise, any policy that discriminates against race or equality in dignity and rights is contrary to the Treaty of Waitangi.


So, what are we going to do about it?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We can have co-governance without democracy.

We can have democracy without co-governance.

But we cannot have democracy and co-governance.

We here today meet at an inflection in New Zealand’s history. A tipping point.

We’ve come to the crossroads so to speak, or rather we have been pushed to it.

And we have to make a decision.

The very foundations of our democracy, with all its faults, have been a privilege for all of us to live under.

Democracy for us has meant freedom, which so many populations around the world and down through the centuries, have never had the good fortune to experience.


New Zealand men and women have put their lives on the line to defend it.

And we are the lucky beneficiaries of the aspirations, dreams, sacrifice and hard work of others before us.

But we should remember the famous lines of John Philpott Curran all those years ago.

‘The condition of which God has given liberty to man is eternal vigilance’.

Today, and for months, the people of Ukraine have been fighting for their freedom gained but a mere three decades ago.

They should be an inspiration to us.

As we go to the election next year, we have got to join forces and make a commitment to save our democracy.

For this will be an election like no other in our time.

If we don’t win in this so critical cause and save our democracy our people face a bleak future like so many other nations.

Nations which found out all too late that insidious elements in their systems of Government, unchallenged, led to tyranny, abuse, inequalities and a slide to the third world, and consequent misery for all but the privileged few.

Politics is a strange business.

It has the capacity to do so much damage to people. 

Conversely, it has the capacity to do so much good for people.

It’s with that in mind that I ask you to get ready, to make a commitment today, right here right now, to be unwavering in our work to save our country.

If you do, the future is certain.

Democracy will prevail.

But it is ‘Now or Never’.

We oppose co-governance.

We oppose their three waters take over.

We oppose our country’s name being changed.

We oppose separatism in policy and in law.

We support policies based on need, not race.

We support the rule of law where everyone is equal before it.

We support the right of free speech - and that means we support the right of New Zealanders to say, ‘I disagree’ and not be mandated out of existence, not being mandated into being a second-class citizen, and losing their jobs, careers, or their right to make a living.

We support the right of New Zealanders to disagree with government policy and not be punished for it.

And we are never going to work in Parliament with any political party whose policies threaten these fundamental rights.

We support democracy AND WE ARE GOING TO WIN.