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MICHAEL BASSETT: MODERN MAORI MYTHS

Many of the comments about the Coalition’s determination to wind back the dramatic Maorification of New Zealand of the last three years would have you believe the new government is engaged in a full-scale attack on Maori. In reality, all that is really happening is that ministers are stopping the crusade waged by the Ardern/Hipkins government to push Maori into all aspects of our lives at the expense of every other culture, while never having mentioned an intention to do so during the 2020 election campaign.

We now know that while New Zealand First stymied the efforts of Nanaia Mahuta and Willie Jackson to Maorify everything between 2017-2020, work was actually underway in secret on He Puapua. It is a bizarre document drawn up by several weak academics at Waikato University. They were planning a Maori minority take-over of the country by 2040, the bi-centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. No sooner were the writs returned from the 2020 election, with Winston Peters now out of Parliament, than work on implementing He Puapua began. The report “hasn’t been to Cabinet”, Jacinda toothily assured us, while at the same time her ministry was energetically putting its recommendations into force.

The TV channels, Radio New Zealand and other mainstream media were soon referring to New Zealand as Aotearoa, a name that Maori hadn’t used. They started making announcements in Te Reo, using newly-invented words straight out of the Maori Language Commission. All public institutions, and some private ones too, were encouraged – forced would be a better word in many instances – to hold karakia before the start of proceedings, despite the human right we all possess to practise our own religion, or to have none. Notwithstanding their recent assertions to the contrary, our newspapers were obliged to sign documents indicating support for the ever-expanding “principles” of the Treaty being dreamt up by Maori radicals before they could draw down money from the government’s Public Interest Journalism Fund (PIJF). Then came a bogus syllabus for compulsory New Zealand history in schools. Then the renaming of government departments in Maori, often untranslated, so that the vast majority of us had no idea what most of the authorities or departments actually did. Then the hugely disruptive restructuring of the Health services in the middle of a pandemic, with one system for Maori and another for everyone else. If in doubt, the Maori system was the arbitrating authority. Before long, Labour agreed to pay bonuses from our taxes to bureaucrats who speak Maori, learned, no doubt, in their employer’s time. One or two such bonuses might have been warranted, but the majority weren’t. Advertisements for jobs in the public domain stressed a preference not for the applicant’s appropriate skills or merits, but for her/his fluency in Maori. Why was never explained. Since 100% of New Zealanders speak English, and fewer than 4% speak any Maori, what was the purpose of all this? We’ve never been told.

I have nothing against people choosing to learn Maori. It should be an option available to children after school hours. But fluency in the most important language in the world – English – is what schools should be about. Far too many Kiwis these days speak low-level English and have impoverished vocabularies. Improving those will do more to enhance livelihoods than learning a synthetic language, many of the words of which didn’t exist until the Maori Language Commission invented them.

In effect, the new government, as I understand it, wants to return us to the situation we were in before Maorification was visited upon us in what amounted to a coup d’etat. No Labour candidates campaigned in 2020 on forcing Maori culture on to us. They waited until the election was over and then implemented policies advancing the interests of about 3% of the population – the proportion of votes the Maori Party got at the 2023 election. Constantly promoting Te Ao Maori is expensive. Translations; duplications; unnecessary new Health structures; lower-level appointments because a meritorious applicant didn’t win a position due to a lack of fluency in Maori; less time spent in the classroom on essential subjects. The costs add up at a time when restraining public expenditure is a vital necessity in the new ministry’s fight against the inflation that lies behind the country’s cost-of-living crisis.

These were some of the problems I drew attention to on 18 January 2021 in an article entitled “New Zealand’s Modern Cultural Cringe” that we recently re-published. When a few days later it appeared almost by accident and without my knowledge on the New Zealand Herald’s website outlined in a further column “Free Speech and the New Zealand Herald” on 7 March 2021, I was dubbed a “racist” by the paper’s managing four:


Representing, as they do, a newspaper the share value of which is floundering these days, they constantly deny selling the paper’s independence on Maori matters in order to access money from the PIJF. If they continue to batter us with misleading journalism on the new government’s intentions then why not send them and others who engage in the same erroneous nonsense a message?

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