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Labour is strongly in favour of co-governance, but just doesn’t talk about it

In brief

  • Labour has barely mentioned co-governance, Three Waters or He Puapua during the campaign. 
  • Meanwhile, NZ First and ACT are collectively garnering over 15% of votes and repealing co-governance measures are central to their campaigns. 
  • What should voters make of Labour’s unwillingness to campaign on what’s aggressively pursued while in power? 

Labour has been avoiding a lot of key issues

Labour avoids co-governance issue.
This meme has been making its way around social media lately.

Three Waters, He Puapua and especially co-governance are critical issues that have not been openly discussed during this campaign, in large part because Labour steadfastly refuses to mention them. Hipkins also downplays co-governance and has stated that’s more or less been the strategy.

Labour Cabinet minister Willie Jackson recently admitted to Michael Laws on the Platform that New Zealanders are upset over co-governance policies because “Maybe we were a bit slow initially in terms of our explanations with regards to it”.

The only other recent mention of co-governance, Three Waters or He Puapua by Labour in the media, was several weeks ago in Te Ao News. Hipkins defended co-governance “In the face of growing criticism from opposition parties”. So other than apparently being forced to discuss co-governance to defend it, Hipkins would rather not mention it. Perhaps voters should be asking why?

Several months ago, Local Government minister Kiernan McAnulty admitted, when pressed, that co-governance didn’t square with democracy’s ‘one person, one vote’ underpinning.

There’s been mostly radio silence on anything related to co-governance since Jackson tapped the brakes on introducing legislation to formalise co-governance in December of last year. At the time Jackson said it wouldn’t be understood.

Labour has left the other parties to discuss co-governance and discuss it they have

In fact, National, ACT and NZ First have made ending co-governance along with Three Waters major planks of their respective platforms. ACT’s campaign launch focussed specifically on ending co-governance. NZ First has, as its first point in discussing their campaign launch, the need to “guard against a growing separatist agenda that threatens democracy and nationhood as we know it”.

ACT and NZ First are seen as two minor parties to watch as their popularity continues to be above 15% combined. Meanwhile, polls suggest Labour continues to bleed support.

Activist journalist Moana Maniapoto sees NZ First’s slogan “Let’s take our country back” as a dig at the notion of separate rights for Māori. In an interview with party leader Winston Peters, Maniapoto quizzed Peters on why he wants to discuss such issues at all as if they’re trivial. She even tried to downplay the significance of He Puapua as simply a “discussion document”.

“It’s a prototype for co-governance,” Peters shot back.

What should voters think?

The aggressive pursuit of co-governance initiatives has been a major aspect of Labour’s work over the past six years in Government.

Voters are clearly interested, as evidenced by the Opposition parties  campaigning on the issue. Why is Labour so reluctant to discuss policies they are unwavering on, yet admit are “misunderstood”? How should voters interpret Labour’s silence on an issue they’ve aggressively pursued over the past several years?

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