“The Government is taking the whole country on the path to being an ethno-state, not just the select Māori leaders it’s chosen to consult on its implementation of He Puapua,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“If there’s to be a constitutional conversation, everybody deserves to be part of it. The thing is, this constitutional conversation is about excluding most New Zealanders from having full political rights, and the Government has started as it means to go on.

“Since the National Party signed us up to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples thinking it wouldn’t matter, New Zealanders have faced a decade of deception. ACT was not told under the ‘no surprises’ policy that National was doing this. National was in bed with the Māori Party and ACT was blindsided and vehemently opposed it.

“The current Government commissioned He Puapua, then tried to suppress it instead of practicing open Government, until ACT unmasked it in Parliament. ACT has seen documents in which the Declaration Working Group asks the Māori Development Minister multiple times to release it. The Prime Minister protested that it was not Government policy. Now a report about separatism is being separately consulted with Māori only.

“Despite He Puapua’s pernicious pathway, its importance is difficult to overstate. It is a proposal that New Zealand becomes, in the words of University of Auckland academic Elizabeth Rata, an ethno-state rather than a nation state. In Rata’s words, ‘He Puapua envisages a system of constitutional categorisation based on ancestral membership criteria rather than the universal human who is democracy's foundational unit.’

“If ACT hadn’t brought this issue to Parliament in April and questioned Jacinda Ardern about it, nobody would know about He Puapua. If National hadn’t blindsided ACT by signing up to the UNDRIP, we wouldn’t be here today.

“Liberal democracy matters. Every adult New Zealander gets one vote. Their superficial characteristics – race, sex, sexuality and religion – are not relevant to their rights. Being the first in the world to achieve that is New Zealand’s greatest political achievement.

“It’s vital that, if New Zealand is going to have a debate about its constitutional future, then it is open to all. A debate about separatism being carried out for the few tells us all we need to know.”