• Video: Iwi Māori have no appetite for calls for Treaty referendum, says Ngāti Kahungunu executive chair

Video: Iwi Māori have no appetite for calls for Treaty referendum, says Ngāti Kahungunu executive chair

Calls for a referendum on Te Tiriti o Waitangi by ACT and New Zealand First have been rejected by Ngāti Kahungunu executive chair Bayden Barber, who says Iwi Māori have no appetite for “that type of rhetoric narrative”.

Barber attended an Iwi Chairs Forum meeting in Christchurch last week, where the issue was discussed ahead of the forming of a new National Party-led conservative government.

In an interview with Hawke’s Bay App on Friday, Barber said the call for a referendum should be “abhorrent to people generally in Aotearoa”.

“It's our founding document. It's the document that sets out the relationship between tangata whenua and the Queen and her people, and my ancestors signed that. So I'm a direct descendant of one who saw the potential of having such an agreement between the peoples to work together for all of our futures.”

“I don't see it happening. I don't think the National Party would go there, but these guys, they campaigned on such rhetoric, and they'll be looking to see something put in place, but iwi Māori just have no appetite for that type of rhetoric narrative.”

In a meeting with National Party MPs led by Dr Shane Reti, Barber said the iwi leaders had reminded the politicians what Māori had achieved when National governments had been in power.”

“The Kohanga Reo movement came through a National government. Some of the changes - te reo, Whānau Ora, the list goes on. And so what are the opportunities to continue to work together, to continue to achieve to support Māori outcomes ... not just Māori.”

“If we can get our Māori community stronger, that's good for everyone. That's good for the whole of Aotearoa.”

Barber says that while there is some apprehension around “potential politicking, we certainly are focused on the opportunities”.

He says the meeting with National was an initial one as any serious discussion will happen with the leader and new Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, who was unavailable as he was in coalition negotiations with Winston Peters and David Seymour. Luxon did send his apologies.

However, Barber said the focus of the talks were not on the issue of a referendum, but rather on what had been achieved by iwi over the years the Iwi Chairs Forum has been going.

“This includes some of the momentum that we've gained with the last government, some of the aspirations that we want to continue.

“We outlined some of the things that we've achieved, such as the housing prototypes, and we want to continue that. The freshwater space, looking to continue on some of the work that's been done in the environmental space. And also in the social space, education and help. We are keen to look at how we can give Māori more empowerment to lift some of the outcomes that sadly are not too good when we are talking health and education, and even the state of the environment.”

Barber said the issue of co-governance did not come up at the meeting, but is one that the Iwi Chairs would be raising at Waitangi in February.

“The aspirations of Māori can't be blurred into the background, and if I look at the election, we have a younger, educated population that can speak te reo, that can articulate themselves in te ao Pakeha as well, and co-governance isn't something to be feared. It's something to help support and empower a key part of our community, which is the Māori, which is the Māori community.”

“We'll be continuing to talk that way, but we'll have to wait to see how it all plays out with the government, but that will be our korero. Co-governance isn't a subject to be feared. We need to take that opportunity, and use it to pave the way forward for our country.”

Reflecting on the recent elections, Barber said the success of Te Pāti Māori had been the standout of the polls.

“It is quite a big surprise, especially with some of the incumbents that were toppled from  Labour, senior caucus members, ministers, that were dethroned by the Māori Party candidates. So I guess it's a sign of the times, really, of frustrations around a number of things.”

“But yeah, it was surprising, because the Māori caucus and the Labour Party had supported a number of kaupapa, which were good kaupapa, such as iwi housing and other things. But yeah, I guess the appetite with the Labour Party had run its course, and you saw some big upsets, and all of them were upsets in my mind.”

Barber said the key to the Te Pāti Māori success was that they mobilised the rangatahi vote.

“The young voter or the young population, Māori population, is where the bulk of our population is, so if you can mobilise them, well, then you're going to get success.”

The only Māori seat that the Labour Party won was the local seat of Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, which had been touted as a safe seat for incumbent Meka Whaitiri, who cross the floor from Labour to Te Pāti Māori.

Barber says the result indicated that Whatiri’s move did not resonate well with voters and also showed that the local seat is a Labour stronghold.

candidate], but I don't think it was ever a sure seat because the way that that went down, coming across from the Labour Party. I don't think that resonated well with a lot of the voters, and it showed.”

Watch the accompanying video to hear Bayden Barber’s views on the elections and the way forward under a National-led Government.