National Party leader Judith Collins says her party will not pursue policies of ‘racist separatism’ when dealing with poverty and lack of opportunity in New Zealand.
Collins said socio-economic statistics pointing to inequities faced by Māori reflected poverty and simply highlighted the need to address obstacles in the way of all citizens to achieve success in society.
She said not all Māori faced poverty and held up deputy leader and National’s health spokesperson Shane Reti up as an example of someone who had worked hard to get ahead.
Collins made her comments on Morning Report in response to questions over an internal discussion document circulating among National Party members in the lead-up to a special general party meeting in 26 June.
The 18-page document puts forward recommendations to bolster the party’s governance and structure, including the need for stronger focus on Māori and diversity.
It follows criticism during the last General Election campaign about the ‘white’ make-up of the party’s front bench.
Changes proposed would look to increase party diversity and embed the Treaty of Waitangi into the party’s constitution.
It proposes appointing board members alongside elected board members to increase diversity and skills gaps “should specific ‘seats’ be allocated based on representation, for example a Māori Directors’ seat”. In also recommends standing in Māori seats at election time.
Collins said the document was not secret and had been circulated to inform debate among members. She said her leadership did not want to get ahead of its members and she did not want to pre-empt any decision they would make.
“Membership will be the sole determinants of what is actually adopted, and I don’t want to prejudge that,” she said.
“We did have it [the Treaty of Waitangi] in the party constitution until, I think, 2003. So, these are things that we are going to discuss. I’m not going to prejudge it because I absolutely believe in a democratic process in the party.”
However, Collins stridently denied the recommendations reflected a radical departure in policy. It did not signal a move towards affirmative-action type solutions to social problems.