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Dr Muriel Newman

Time to look forward

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There is a growing consensus amongst western leaders that policies and practices that divide citizens along ethnic and cultural lines are immensely damaging to societies and nations. British Prime Minister David Cameron, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and former Prime Ministers – John Howard of Australia, Jose Aznar of Spain, and Yves Leterme of Belgium – have all condemned multiculturalism as a failed policy that undermines national identity, promoting separatism and extremism.

Multiculturalism is a doctrine based on the flawed notion that different cultures can co-exist side by side within communities, each retaining their own separate identity to create parallel societies. This contrasts with the traditional understanding that nations can only function cohesively if all the different groups within a society adapt to the cultural values of the society at large, to work together in the national interest. It has taken more than thirty years for elected leaders to realise that the increasing demands for separatist schools, medical facilities, legal systems, and political representation by different ethnic groups is creating divisions and unrest so deep that they have weakened the foundations of national identity and created a serious threat to national security.

In a speech to a security conference last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron declared that organisations that promoted separatism should not be tolerated. He made it clear that they should be denied access to public funds and barred from spreading their message in public institutions. “Let’s properly judge these organisations”, he said. “Do they believe in universal human rights? Do they believe in equality of all before the law? Do they believe in democracy? Do they encourage integration or separatism? These are the sorts of questions we need to ask. Fail these tests and the presumption should be not to engage with such organisations”. 1

Western leaders are now making fundamental changes to promote community cohesion, shared values and a strong national identity. In line with such objectives, they are withdrawing state support from those who preach separatism, standing firm against accusations of intolerance and racism. Instead of encouraging difference and division, their new focus is on celebrating unity.

Here in New Zealand, the policies and practices that create deep divisions within our society are not so much related to multiculturalism as biculturalism. Biculturalism is a myth based on the faulty premise that a nation can be unified if two separate peoples of different cultures live side by side. The advocates of biculturalism are pushing for a separatist future – one land with two peoples and two laws. Their ultimate ambition is a nation of self-governing tribes.

Tragically for New Zealand there is even a chance that they may achieve this goal – if complacency allows them to. If the Maori Party can convince the National Party to support a new New Zealand Constitution based on the Treaty of Waitangi – as is likely to be recommended by the biased government constitutional review panel – such a constitution would create a new governing class, which would enable the separatist goal of iwi to become a reality.

And in response to those who say National would never do that, just remember, that’s what we all said about the foreshore and seabed. We thought National would never repeal Crown ownership, yet here we are fighting a laborious battle to restore it through a citizens’ initiated referendum – the public’s rights and views ignored as the party put politics and self-interest ahead of the national interest.

Underpinning the whole notion of biculturalism is the existence of a distinct race of people to claim that status. The problem for biculturalists is that rapid inter-marriage, has blurred the boundaries between races. Even the claim that Maori make up 15 percent of the population is a gross exaggeration. Statistics New Zealand explains that the way Maori statistics are reported was altered in the mid-seventies when government definitions were changed from being based on ancestry and blood quantum (someone had to be half-caste or more to be classified as Maori), to be based on ethnic affiliation and self-identification. Simon Chapple, a Senior Research Analyst with the Department of Labour, explains the impication: “In the 1996 census there were 273,693 New Zealanders who identified ethnically as Maori and Maori only. In addition to this, there were 250,338 New Zealanders who identified as members of another ethnic group, usually Pakeha/European, and also as Maori. Currently Statistics New Zealand’s official policy is to arbitrarily classify mixed ethnicity individuals who have Maori as one of their ethnic groups as Maori and not as the other group or groups to which they also belong. This sole plus mixed group is the Maori ethnic group as officially measured. In addition the 1996 census reveals another 56,343 New Zealanders with Maori ancestry but who do not identify ethnically as Maori. Adding these ancestry-but-not ethnicity people gives around 580,374 Maori in 1996.”

He suggested that a more accurate measure would be to retain half of those classified as Maori as part of the Maori ethnic group, with the rest allocated to a non-Maori groups using their other primary stated ethnicity.2 Using this approach, the ‘Maori’ population would reduce to just over 7 percent, less than the population of Asian New Zealanders and Pacific Island New Zealanders, highlighting the folly of the bicultural agenda.

Associate Professor of Education at Auckland University, Dr Elizabeth Rata, has long warned about the dangers of biculturalism explaining that it was driven by left wing activists who were seeking an alternative to traditional class politics in the seventies. As part of a group identity politics agenda – that also encompassed feminism and gay rights – she explains that many ‘biculturalists’ moved into positions of power and influence in the education and health professions, social services, and government circles, as public servants and politicians, bringing with them their commitment to identity politics: “Victimhood was subsequently understood as oppression by colonisation, the patriarchy, and ‘Western’ culture generally, an oppression experienced by ethnic groups, indigenous peoples, women, gays, and religious minorities’ rather than the capitalist exploitation of working class people.”3

Their influence is without question. Policies promoting biculturalism have led to separate Maori education systems, separate Maori health funding and care, separate welfare through Whanau Ora, separate Maori housing schemes, separate Maori justice procedures, separate Maori government departments and tribunals, along with the maintenance of a separate Maori electoral roll and separate Maori seats in Parliament. In local government, there is separate Maori representation through a range of special reserved seats, liaison committees, and advisory groups.

Then there are special Maori-only consultation rights under the Resource Management Act, and special co-management rights for rivers, parks and parts of the coastline. There are even separate tax rates for Maori – in 2006 the Labour government changed the law to allow the commercial arm of Maori tribes to be granted charitable exemptions so they don’t have to pay income tax on business profits. This is in addition to the long-standing special tax status of Maori authorities which pay 19.5 percent, a lower rate than other businesses, which pay 28 percent. This has tilted the playing field in favour of Maori business interests, which are estimated to have a combined asset base of $37 billion.

The point is that the push for more privilege is relentless. The Maori Party wants to restructure “the Justice System upon the basis of the Treaty of Waitangi and the foundation of partnership”, and it intends introducing ‘cultural competency’ across the whole of the public sector. With its eye on the compulsory teaching of the Maori language, their drive for separate authority and influence is without end. It is just as Elizabeth Rata warned – the bicultural movement has been captured by Maori separatists who want nothing less than the incorporation of tribal authority into governance processes. “The bicultural movement in New Zealand has been a mistake, that is subverting democracy, erecting ethnic boundaries between Maori and non-Maori and promoting a cultural elite within Maoridom.”4

I asked the University of Canterbury’s Constitutional Law Specialist David Round, this week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator, to share with readers his views on New Zealand’s culture and whether we are – or could ever be – a true multicultural or bicultural nation. In his insightful way, David explains that biculturalism is impossible:

“A society cannot be bicultural. If two cultures allegedly co-exist within it, then one will be the prevailing culture, and the other can be at best mere ornamentation and affectation. In the same way, no individual can have two cultures. One cannot live ~ which is what culture is ~ by two completely different set of rules and cultural values and attitudes. It is impossible. Certain Maori dream, obviously, of having the best of both worlds ~ of enjoying everything that the West has brought them while at the same time still somehow being authentically ‘Maori’. That cannot be done. A man cannot serve two masters. A culture is all of a piece. A human being may live this way or that way, but he cannot live both ways at once. You cannot enjoy all the comforts of the West, reading and electricity and health care and television and motor-cars and a money economy, and at the same time be culturally Maori. Your Maoriness is shallow play-acting. It is dishonest. By all means revere your ancestors and treasure certain elements of their now-extinct way of life. But in all honesty, admit that you are now different.”

David ends his commentary with a clear statement of fact: “We have only one prevailing culture here in New Zealand ~ a culture not ‘European’, not ‘Maori’, but our own, the consequence of these peoples, and now newer ones, living and growing together in this unique place. That is as it should be. While respecting genuine inherited difference, we should be striving to meld those differences into one greater national whole. That is the only way we will survive as a nation. A house divided against itself cannot stand.” To read David’s article The Myth of Biculturalism, please click here

So where to from here? While other Western Leaders have realised that their futures lie in national cohesion, unity of purpose and shared values and vision, our leaders seem intent on jumping to the tune of the biculturalists. With their façade of aggression and sharp tongues at the ready to call any critic a racist, for too long good people have remained silent.

Well the time has come when remaining silent is no longer an option. At present a minority group of influential mixed race New Zealanders are trying to dictate a race-based future for this country. It is time those who usually remain silent found their voice. As David Cameron said, it is time to withdraw state funding from institutions that divide us instead of uniting us. It is time to turn our backs on extremist groups. It is time to speak our mind and condemn people who seek to disrupt the unity of our great country.

Change will not happen overnight, but happen it must. New Zealand needs a new direction where everyone can work towards a common purpose. We need to recapture the pride in being Kiwis that has eluded us for far too long. And while we are at it, we need to change our official Census Form so we can take pleasure in identifying ourselves as New Zealanders, irrespective of our background! We need to look forward to a new future as one people.

This week’s poll asks: Is it time to end state funded biculturalism? Click here for poll


  1. David Cameron, State multiculturalism has failed
  2. Simon Chapple, Maori socio-economic disparity .
  3. Rata, E. (2008) Educating for Citizenship in a Bicultural Society, In St George, A. Brown, S. & J. O’Neill (Eds.) Facing the Big Questions in Education: Purpose, Power and Learning,  (pp. 51-62) Melbourne: Cengage Learning. ISBN: 9780170137393.
  4. NZ Herald, Tough talker on tribal issues.