Nats not Maori enough?


The leader and deputy leader of the National Party are Maori.

So is Labour’s deputy, the leader and deputy of New Zealand First, and one of the two contenders for the co-leader of the Green Party.

That ought to be something to celebrate.

It is except that several commentators don’t think National’s Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett are Maori enough.

 . . Bridges’ generational change then is about as solid as his claims to his Maori heritage and that of his deputy, neither of whom have made much of it in their rise up through the ranks; not altogether surprising considering their new leader is just three sixteenths Maori and Bennett’s grandmother was half-Maori. . . 

Funny how it’s only an issue when it’s the National Party.

That aside, the  furore illustrates one of the problems with identity politics – they divide rather than unite.

There is no single way to be a Maori, any other race or ethnicity, gender or any of the other groups people may or may not identify with.

There will be a lot of urban Maori whose experiences are similar to those of the National leadership duo, does that make them any less Maori?

Of course not.

Let’s celebrate that we’re in a country where race, gender and any of the other factors which separate and are used to discriminate against people in other countries simply don’t matter without nit-picking over what does or doesn’t constitute this or that identity.

December 18 in history


On December 18:

1271  Kublai Khan renamed his empire “Yuan” (元 yuán), officially marking the start of the Yuan Dynasty of Mongolia and China.


  • 1620 – The Mayflower landed in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts with 102 Pilgrims on board.
  • MayflowerHarbor.jpgMayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)

    1642  Abel Tasman and his men had the first known European encounter with Maori.

    First contact between Maori and Europeans

    1707 Charles Wesley, English Methodist hymnist, was born.

    1777 The United States celebrated its first Thanksgiving, marking the recent victory by the Americans over General John Burgoyne in the Battle of Saratoga in October.


    1778 Joseph Grimaldi, English clown, was born.

    1849 Henrietta Edwards, Canadian women’s rights activist, was born.

    1863 Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, was born.

    1878 Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, was born.

    1888Richard Wetherill and his brother in-law discovered the ancient Indian ruins of Mesa Verde.


    Cliff Palace

    1890  Edwin Armstrong, American inventor (FM radio) was born.

    1898  Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat set the new land speed record going 39.245 mph (63.159 km/h), in a Jeantaud electric car. This is the first recognized land speed record.

    1900 The Upper Ferntree Gully to Gembrook Narrow-gauge (2 ft 6 in or 762 mm) Railway (now the Puffing Billy Railway) in Victoria, Australia opened.

     The Monbulk Creek Trestle Bridge.

    1905 – Irving Kahn, American financial analyst and investor, was born.

    1908  Celia Johnson, English actress, was born.

    1910 – Eric Tindill, New Zealand cricketer and rugby player, was born.

    1912 The Piltdown Man, later discovered to be a hoax, was found in the Piltdown Gravel Pit, by Charles Dawson.


    1913 Willy Brandt, Chancellor of Germany, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was born.

    1916  Betty Grable, American actress, was born.

    1935  Jacques Pépin, French chef, was born.

    Jacques Pépin 2006.JPG

    1938 Chas Chandler, English musician (The Animals), was born.

    1943  Keith Richards, English guitarist (The Rolling Stones), was born.


    1946  Steve Biko, South African anti-apartheid activist, was born.


    1946 – Steven Spielberg, American film director, was born.


    1963 Brad Pitt, American actor, was born.

    A Caucasian male in his mid-40s with brown hair. He is wearing a black suit and white shirt with a black bow-tie.

    1966 Saturn‘s moon Epimetheus is discovered by Richard L. Walker.

    The planet Saturn

    1969  Home Secretary James Callaghan‘s motion to make permanent the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965, which had temporarily suspended capital punishment in England, Wales and Scotland for murder (but not for all crimes) for a period of five years, was carried by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

    1973 Soyuz 13, crewed by cosmonauts Valentin Lebedev and Pyotr Klimuk, was launched from Baikonur in the Soviet Union.

    1987  Larry Wall released the first version of the Perl programming language.

    1997  HTML 4.0 was published by the World Wide Web Consortium.

    1999 NASA launched into orbit the Terra platform carrying five Earth Observation instruments, including ASTER, CERES, MISR, MODIS and MOPITT.

    TERRA am1.jpg

    Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

    Forget the trophies, solve the problems


    Maori parliamentary seats were established in 1867. That was the result of more than a decade of pressure for political representation from Maori who were granted the same rights and protections as other New Zealanders under the Treaty of Waitangi.

    At that time there were three special seats for Otago and Westland gold miners and one for an Auckland Pensioners’ Settlement. Those seats went when the need for them ended, Maori seats continued, not for their benefit but from discrimination.

    All Maori men aged 21 or more were granted the right to vote 12 years earlier than European men who, until 1879, had to own or lease property of a certain value before they could vote.

    However, one of the reasons for establishing separate seats was a fear that Maori would swamp the Pakeha vote in some areas and their size meant second class representation from the start.

    This was not the only discriminatory aspect of Maori franchise. Secret ballots had been introduced for general electorate in 1870 but Maori were required to vote by show of hands. This continued until 1910 when voting by show of hands was no longer compulsory however, it was not until 1937 that the requirement for secret ballot became law in Maori electorates.

    From 1919 until 1951 Maori had to vote on a different day from the general election. They were not permitted to stand in European electorates until 1967, and they were then only able to register to vote in them if they identified themselves as “half-castes”.

    The Royal Commission on MMP recommended that Maori seats be discontinued when the new voting system was introduced. That was disregarded and the number of seats has grown as more people choose to go on the Maori roll.

     There hasn’t been a corresponding improvement in statistics for Maori people. In too many social and economic measures they are still over represented in the negative ones and under represented in the positive ones

    That isn’t because they are Maori. It’s because they are poorly educated, in poor health and have lower incomes.

    If the Maori Party put their energy into addressing the root causes of those problems instead of worrying about trophies like Maori seats on a council, their people and our country would all be better for it.

    Do Maori vote for non-Maori?


    I’m listening to a discussion on Afternoon’s panel and have just been told that only about 1% of Auckland local body representatives have been Maori; that means the system doesn’t work and that Maori aren’t properly represented.

    But does it?

    That presupposes that none of the people Maori vote for win seats – regardless of whether or not they’re Maori and/or that Maori people vote only for Maori candidates.

    I’d be very surprised if that was the case, but regardless of who votes for whom, once people are elected they’re bound to represent every one of their constituents.

    August 1 in history


    On August 1:

    1291 the Swiss Confederation was formed.


    1880 1800 the Act of Union was passed uniting the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland.

    1987 Maori became an official language in New Zealand.

    July 1 in history


    On July 1:

    1906 Estee Lauder was born.

    1908 SOS was adpoted as the international distress signal. In Morse Code it’s . . . – – –  . . . 

    1942 the first battle of El Alamein  started.

    1988 The New Zealand government agreed to return Bastion Point  to Maori.

    Starting at the wrong end of education


    Pita Sharples has tempered the comments he made yesterday about Maori having open entry to university by saying that would only be if they meet certain standards.

    This afternoon Dr Sharples clarified that he did not expect unqualified Maori to be immediately accepted into courses.

    “It’s just providing entry for people to attend a student learning centre where they can reach the standard to do a degree.”

    Universities already run pre-admission courses and Dr Sharples is still focussing on the wrong end of the education system.

    The problem is not that too few Maori are going to university it is that too few have the required literacy and numeracy skills to gain admission and succeed.

    Solving that starts by ensuring pre-schoolers have the skills to get the most out of school from the start – just simple things like being able to count to at least 10, recognising and being able to name colours, knowing how to hold a crayon or pencil, how to hold a book, that the pictures related to the story and that reading is fun.

    Once they’re at school, children who are struggling need to be identified early and given extra help. Families and whanau may need assistance too so they are capable of giving children the home support which is an important part of succeeding at school.

    It’s not easy to do but it would be far more effective than trying to get more people into university if they don’t have the ability and will to succeed there.

    Kiwiblog shows the problem isn’t too few Maori entering university but a disproportionate number who fail to complete their courses.

    University isn’t the right  place for everyone and, as Macdoctor points out, you don’t have to be tertiary educated to succeed:

    . . . whereas a good, basic education is essential, it is simply not true that a tertiary education is necessary for one to be successful. . . But the majority of business owners appear to have relatively low levels of education. One can only conclude that, while tertiary education will help in the job market, you do not need it to be a success. What you need is the motivation to be successful.

    Giving Maori an easier route to university would set up more for failure once they were there and also reflect badly on those who got there on their merits.

    Giving everyone better than basic literacy and numeracy skills would provide them with the choice of a tertiary education or taking another route to success.

    Stats Dept seeks feedback on ethnicity stats


    Who am I?

    That’s a fundamental question of identity and one which government agencies think they have a better answer to than those of us who identify as New Zealanders because most official forms which seek to know our ethnicity won’t let us give that answer.

    For years when I couldn’t find an ethnicity which matched how I felt I ticked other, and put New Zealander if asked to specify what that meant. Those who deal with the stats would then have included me under European which I consider to be racist because by doing so they were saying that New Zealanders were only of European descent.

    Now most forms have New Zealander of European descent so I tick that,  but I do it with reluctance, partly because I feel ethnically that I’m of Scottish descent rather than European. But even more because I’m uncomfortable that while I can be a New Zealander people of other descents aren’t always given an option of being one of any flavour, they’re Maori or Pacific Islanders or Asian or European.

    The picture becomes even more clouded because the census allows you to be more specific than Pacific Islander and identify as Samoan, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Niuean, Chinese or Indian and gives examples Dutch, Japanese and Tokelauan as examples under other.

    Isn’t there something wrong with their reaonsing if you can be Dutch which is definitely European but not a  New Zealander which isn’t European though may be of that descent? 

    I think part of the problem is that we’re not sure exactly what’s meant by ethnic group. If the question was about race it would be much simpler, but that’s not the same thing as ethnicity.

    On the cesnus form it’s defined as:

     . . . people who have some or all of the following characteristics:

    a common proper name

    one or more elements of common culture, such as religion, customs or


    a unique community of interests, feelings and actions

    a shared sense of common origins or ancestry

    a common geographic origin.

     The OED defines ethnic, in relation to a population group as:  sharing a distinctive cultural and historical tradition, often associated with race, nationality or religion, by which the group identifies itself and others recognise it . . .

    Often associated with  is not the same thing as only being and following both the Stats and OED definitions I’m even more certain I’m a New Zealander, albeit of Scottish descent, because the distinctive cultural and historical traditions which I identify with most strongly are New Zealand ones.

    Perhaps we could learn from the USA because they enable people to identify as, for example Afro Americans, Native Americans or Asian Americans . . . which acknowledges both the cultural and historical things which differentiate them as well as those they have in common. (Although in a typical US centric-fashion that does ignore the fact that the millions of people in the many other countries in North, Central and South America also regard themselves as American).

    However, that aside, I think the USA’s approach could be the answer to the dilemma facing Statistics NZ which has resulted in the release a discussion paper on the way ethnicity statistics are collected and reported .

    This has been prompted by the debate over the inclusion of the category New Zealander  in the official census and the consequent difficulty in matching stats from previous years and with other official sources such as birth registrations which didn’t or still don’t offer that option.

    Stats are important and they need to be accurate, reliable and to be compared, but they also need to reflect reality and I think that the reality has changed. 

    My mother, like many of her generation, called Britain Home, with a capital h even if they’d never been there. That would be most uncommon now because many of the ties which bound us to Britain have been cut and we are much more independent in our outlook and our identity.

    The categories in official forms need to change in response to that and enable us, like people in the USA, to answer the who-am-I? question by recognising the cultural and historical things which unite us as well as those which make us different.

    Let those of us who consider ourselves to be New Zealanders be counted as such and satisfy the statisticians’ and planners’ need to be more specific with sub-categories which recognise our descent as well.

    P.S. Feedback to the discussion paper can be emailed to:, until May 25th.

    UPDATE: PM of NZ is quite sure who he is.

    Wanna know a secret?


    TV3’s expose on the “secret” deal  to fund a third staff member for Maori electorates and general electorates larger than 20,000 square kilomtres was really old news.

    Kiwiblog points out, both he and I covered the story when the government announced it in November as part of the coalition deal with the Maori Party.

    The shock-horror coverage of old news as a supposed cover-up puts the story in Macdoctor’s spam journalism category.

    It also shows that the journalist doesn’t understand that a large part of electorate MPs’ responsibilities are in their electorates; nor that while each electorate has more or less the same number of people in it for a very good reasons , it is much harder to give them the service they require when they’re spread over 10s of thousands of square kilometres than if they’re contained in a city.

    The extra money isn’t for the MPs personally, it’s to employ an extra staff member to help their constituents. That it doesn’t appear to be coming with any extra for office space, telephone and other costs means it’s not quite as helpful as it appeared to be at first. But it will still pay for a real human being to assist the people who require the services of an MP and in spite of technological advances like Skype, face to face meetings are what most constituents need when they’ve got problems.

    However, TV3 has done us a service by showing us that Labour doesn’t understand the needs of their constituents either:

    Labour believes the deal stinks and it is accusing National of secrecy.

    Don’t they realise that they still hold two Maori electorates so their MPs get this extra funding too and ought to have known about it since it was announced in November?

    What on earth do their MPs Parekura Horomia and Nanaia Mahuta do if they don’t know how many staff members they are entitled to employ?

    The table below shows the area of each electorate, colour coded by the party which holds each one. Labour’s ignorance on this issue which shows they don’t understand the needs of people in the larger electortates  explain why there was a blue wash at the last election.

    Te Tai Tonga




    West Coast-Tasman


    Te Tai Hauauru










    Te Tai Tokerau


    East Coast


    Taranaki-King Country






























    Dunedin South










    Bay of Plenty






    Tamaki Makaurau


    Dunedin North


    New Plymouth






    Auckland Central




    Hutt South








    Hamilton West


    Wellington Central




    Port Hills


    New Lynn




    Christchurch East


    Palmerston North




    East Coast Bays


    Hamilton East










    Mt Albert


    Manukau East




    Christchurch Central








    Te Atatu


    North Shore


    Mt Roskill




    Minding your hs and ks


    To h or not to h when spelling W(h)anganui is the question.

    I’ll leave the answer to Poneke and move off on a tangent because the discussion reminds me of many a one I had with my father.

    He was from Scotland and was forever telling me to differentiate between which and witch  when I spoke. When he said the former you could hear the h, when I said it often as not you couldn’t.

    I take it from discussion on W(h)anganui that Maori from that area pronounce wh  with a breathy h as  Dad did, as distinct from those further north who pronounce it more like an f.

    That in turn reminds me of a discussion brought up in a celebrity debate about the difference between Maori in the north who use ng  and those in the south who use k so down here it’s Aoraki  but across the strait  it’s Aorangi.

    The debater (Jim Hopkins or Garrick Tremain, I think)  then applied this to English with a convoluted sentence in which strong  became strok, wrong became wrok and dong changed to dok before concluding that sometimes it was better to use the northern pronunciation because you could express your ire without causing offence by telling those annoying you to get funged.

    Why the surprise?


    Maori can’t agree on a flag, what’s surprising about that?

    New Zealanders as a whole can’t agree about whether we should keep our flag or not and if not what should replace what we’ve got so why would a sub-group of us agree on a flag?

    Cactus Kate and Quote Unquote offer some suggestions.

    Hager’s Hollow Horror


    John Roghan  says Nicky Hager is carving out a new career in disingenuous political naivete.

    Not content with a book based on Don Brash’s emails, since brought to the stage and soon to be a movie too, Hager is running a sequel on the discovery that some of the same “hollow men” are consultants to John Key.

    The fact that someone in the National Party must be passing this material to Hager is far more interesting than the use he is making of it, and I have no objection to his using it.

    I agree that where the material comes from is the more interesting, and for National, more serious point.

    …email, I think, is fair game. A fair reporter, though, could reveal what he learns without feigned horror at the fact that people running for public office hire consultants who try to conceal some of their intentions during an election campaign.

    Parties of all stripes are coy on some subjects before an election for good reasons.

    The public interest can be greater than the sum of personal interests, sometimes even in conflict with direct personal gains. It is easy to sell benefits to a section of the electorate, harder to explain how the benefits hurt a country in the long run.

    Some are minority interests that should be advanced in the national interest. Hager should ponder how much progress Maori would have made in recent decades if every step in their recognition had been an election issue.


    Public debate usually favours the status quo. Not much could ever be done if every decision was put to the electorate for a prior mandate.

    Take the present Government’s biggest economic moves, KiwiSaver and, this week, KiwiRail, which I don’t remember being canvassed, with all their costly implications, at elections beforehand.

    Had Labour given an inkling at the last election of the premium they have had to pay to re-nationalise the railway, and the fortune it is going to cost to cover its likely losses, National’s last campaign would have feasted on the information.

    If only.

    But now that the deed is done, the politics have changed. The purchase is the status quo and National will not dare put re-privatisation before the electorate this year, though that may be what it ultimately does with the trains if not the tracks.

    Yep – once something is underway it is difficult to change it, even if it’s because sometimes bad policy is good politics.

    Likewise KiwiSaver, a year old this week. At the last election the savings scheme was an essentially voluntary proposal. The following year it was to become compulsory for employers and acquire some costly enticements of dubious economic value.

    Not long ago my employers wound up my company super fund. I couldn’t blame them; from April they had to contribute to KiwiSaver if staff favoured it. And who of us were going to turn down Cullen’s $1000 handout and tax credits?

    The scheme celebrated its first birthday on Tuesday with 718,000 members – more than double the number predicted in the first year. The only people complaining about it are those annoying economists who see the difference between individual gains and the national welfare.

    They fear the scheme will not add to total personal savings, merely displace previous savings schemes.

    In the Herald last weekend Maria Slade reported an estimate that as little as 9 per cent of the money in KiwiSaver accounts so far is new saving, a percentage the researcher reckoned would not cover the administration and compliance costs of the scheme.

    Is anyone surprised by this?

    Westpac economist Dominick Stephens said KiwiSaver had cost the taxpayers $497 million in its first 11 months, an amount that could have added to national savings if it had been left in the Budget’s fund for future public pensions.

    Even that fund is questioned by some savings professionals who point out that a superannuation scheme is only as good as the future economy that will have to pay out. From that point of view, the best retirement insurance is the investment made in the economy today.

    And not just retirement – health, education and every other service will be more secure in the future if we strengthen the economy now.

    Anyone who believes that the best investments are made by those who stand to lose if they get it wrong would argue the economy would be stronger in the long run if the KiwiSaver incentives were turned into personal tax cuts.

    And yes again.

    Nevertheless, National will have to keep the scheme now that it is replacing private savings on such a scale. The best the party can do is continue to avoid saying whether it will keep the incentives.

    It will not be easy, and should not be easy; it is the job of political opponents and the press to pin all policies down. But adroit tacticians can keep the options open and enable a government to come to power with room to move in the national interest. Voters, I think, understand this. They don’t need horrified disclosures that it happens. It is the horror that sounds hollow.

    Exactly. National has learnt from the damage done by stupid promises made by Jim Bolger before the 1990 election; and Helen Clark has too which is why she keeps trying to under promise and over deliver.

    Parties should be upfront about their philosophy, principles, general  policy, and – sometime before an election – some detailed policy. But they can’t be specific about everything because, once a party is in Government it must have room to adapt to events and circumstances.

    Maori Party want ag in ETS earlier


    Tariana Turia said in an Agenda interview that the Maori Party wants agriculture brought in to the emissions Trading Scheme earlier than requried by legislation before parliament at the moment.

    Has she considered the impact of that on Maori farmers, farm workers, rural contractors, shearers and freezing workers; and the impact of higher prices  which would follow for Maori who buy dairy products, meat and wool?

    Badges Say What?


    Oh dear.

    Whose not so bright idea was it to give every teacher in the country a badge to promote Maori education?

    The buttons cost 81 cents each and were designed to prompt discussions between pupils and teachers using language that appealed to young people.

    Choice, eh? Except for all the other really pressing needs in education which require funding, and the fact that young people aren’t usually impressed when older people try to use their language.

    Hat Tip: No Minister

    20 years of Tremain cartoons


    Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the publication of Garrick Tremain’s first cartoon in the ODT. In an article (not yet on line) Tremain explains how the fax machine helped launch his cartooning career.


    He’d long held a desire to try his hand at political cartooning but had no desire to work in a city. A chance conversation in a pub about a fax machine showed it might be possible to cartoon from his Central Otago home.


    “I sought a meeting with the managing director and editor. Both were dismissive of my claim I could work from so far afield. “You’d have to work within the building so we can give you the ideas.” I disagreed and suggested that I would simply fax them my cartoon which they could then put into their paper or into their rubbish bins, depending on their opinion of the work. At the end of each month I would send them a bill for the number (if any) that they had published. “A Bill? A Bill?” they chimed, “You want money as well?!” I think they saw me as a rabid mercenary deluding myself I could work in isolation …


    His first cartoon showed a car salesman saying to prospective buyers “I don’t want to press you bit it could be the last one at this price” while holding a newspaper behind his back which stated car prices would drop.


    This was 1988 when a reduction in import duties meant prices were, for the first time in living memory showing signs of dropping. But Dunedin’s two biggest motor companies didn’t see the joke and pulled their advertising.


    Response from politicians has always been interesting. Max Bradford used to phone me late at night to plead for kinder treatment and try to convince me that the shambles of the power reforms as all Pete Hodgson’s fault. John Banks wrote to tell he thought I need to know that politicians are actually very nice people and most intelligent as well… A minion rang to say that Prime Minister Clark was deeply offended by my portrayal of her husband and herself. I was able to convey my deep disgust at the theft of my money for her political propaganda.


    Tremain sees cartooning as a negative art form in that it is critical but seldom offers remedies. He feels cartoon reflect rather than direct.


    Those who claim a particular cartoon is damaging endow it with a power it does not have. I think the political cartoon’s greatest gift is assuring the lonely and the powerless that they are not alone in their outrage and despair.


    I have always found it amusing to have my cartoons described as “Maori bashing”. I have never lampooned people for their race. I continually lampoon people for being ridiculous and grant no exemption on grounds of race, which is what so offends the politically correct.

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