New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Luxon has moved to kill any prospect of the contentious Treaty Principles bill passing parliament, confirming his National party will not pass it under any circumstances.
New Zealand has engaged in a summer-long debate, including large protests on Waitangi Day, over the virtues of the bill which is championed by ACT, one of three parties in the coalition.
The bill proposes to redefine the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi as understood in law; principles which have defined the treaty as a 'partnership' between the government and Maori.
ACT leader David Seymour contends that such principles have no place in a modern liberal democracy, proposing to redefine the principles to guarantee equality for all citizens.
The bill proposes the new definitions would go to a referendum, putting Indigenous rights to a vote in the same manner of Australia's Voice referendum last year.
Many Maori leaders find the bill abhorrent and a re-casting of New Zealand's foundational promise, made back in 1840 when the treaty was signed between representatives of the British Crown and Maori chiefs.
The bill was included in a coalition agreement between National and ACT last November, but crucially, National only promised support at the first reading stage.
Passing the first reading would see the bill head for a public consultation, which is likely to see a vast - and divisive - countrywide debate akin to Australia's Voice referendum.
Until Wednesday, Mr Seymour believed National might have been convinced by arguments from the public hearings.
"We're taking the bill to first reading and all bets are off after that," Mr Seymour said on Monday.
Mr Luxon previously said National had "no intention and no commitment" to support the bill after the consultation, but on Wednesday, his stance became more definitive.
"There is no intention to support it beyond that and we won't be supporting it beyond that," he said.
Asked if he would hold the line and vote it down even if a groundswell of support emerged for the bill - as Mr Seymour does - he said "correct".
ð"£ Launched today: All the info you need on the Treaty Principles Bill, in one place. https://t.co/1cxbAPV1A2
— David Seymour (@dbseymour) February 7, 2024
Despite the language shift, Mr Seymour remains optimistic that Mr Luxon's mind can be turned.
"There's never been a prime minister in history who really doesn't care what the public think," he told AAP.
Showing their eagerness to win hearts and minds on the matter, ACT launched a new website - treaty.nz - to push its case.
National's firm opposition to the contentious bill comes after a trip north to the Maori heartland of Waitangi for the country's national day.
His government encountered firm resistance to policies seen as anti-Maori, including axing the Maori Health Authority and diminishing the role of the Maori language in public services.
Ben McKay - AAP