Paul Henry is the special guest at ACT’s 2024 rally Change Makers. He’s a perfect storm of infectious wit, deep thought, and concern for our country but he rarely speaks out. Paul’s another reason to get your tickets for Change Makers on June 9 in Auckland.


At Free Press we hear fair concerns about the rate of policy reform since the election. Is the coalition Government doing enough, and fast enough?

The truth is it never will, for a simple reason. ACT’s partners don’t fully share the party’s enthusiasm for putting New Zealand right. If they did they’d be ACT. However… it’s also true that the coalition is going much further than it would without ACT.

This week Free Press takes the topic of race relations and runs through what has been done or is being done to put it right. We hear the concerns, such as public servants going rogue and the Waitangi Tribunal getting confused and thinking it is the House of Lords.

We hear those concerns but they’re not the whole story. We need to put them beside what the Government is doing to make New Zealand a modern, multi-ethnic, liberal democratic society with a place for everyone.

In ACT’s coalition agreement with National and New Zealand First are the following that have already been done, are being done, or will be done.

Three Waters, with its overlay of co-governance, is gone, with assets returned to councils. It now seems like a strange other world where people got seats at the table governing drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater based on their ancestry. We lived in that world only six months ago but it is gone.

The Māori Health Authority embodied the Treaty as a partnership. That is now gone, we are back to Health New Zealand (AKA Te Whatu Ora), delivering healthcare for all New Zealanders.

Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act required Oranga Tamariki (still called that because it’s in a Parliamentary law) to have regard to the Treaty in all it did. The practical result was reverse uplifts where children were taken out of a dangerous environment, put in a safe ‘home for life’ then taken back to danger again because the foster parents were the ‘wrong’ race for the child. Karen Chhour has introduced legislation to Parliament that will remove 7AA, and children’s needs will be put before their race.

Cabinet has decided and legislation will very soon be introduced to restore referendums for Māori wards. A council with Māori wards that were introduced without a referendum will need to hold one at the next council election (in 2025). Alternatively, Councils can just vote to remove the wards before then. We’re back to one-person one-vote unless a majority of voters want Māori wards.

Race-based entry to medical school is based on the assumption that a) it will get more Māori and Pacific students into med school, and b) these students will graduate to help Māori and Pacific patients, and c) that help will improve their health. The last two assumptions have not been tested, but under ACT’s review they will be.

The Aotearoa Histories curriculum says ‘Māori history is the foundational and continuous history of New Zealand’. Really? It will now be rebalanced under ACT’s coalition agreement.

Work is underway to stop racial preference in Government procurement. For example, ring fencing Government contracts for Māori businesses will be gone. And a Cabinet Circular telling the entire public service to focus on need before race is underway.

The most important policy of all is also being worked up, and the Waitangi Tribunal is getting worked up. The Treaty Principles Bill will be introduced this year, and it will define the Principles of the Treaty as being what the Treaty says in its three short articles: The Government has the right to govern. We all have the right to self-determine and own our property. We all have the ‘same rights and duties’.

That is not everything. There are many smaller acts by ACT ministers each day telling Government officials to mend their ways. We are a modern, multi-ethnic liberal democracy with a place for everyone, and this real change is happening every day.

New Zealand should be a place where anyone can flourish. That means politicians taking care of the basics, regulating sensibly, and targeting support based on need. An obsession with identity and elevating race above need will only stoke division.

There will always be more to do, and criticism should never be ignored, but neither should the significant steps the Government has already taken, most of them driven by ACT’s coalition agreement with the other two parties.

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