Thursday, October 28, 2021

We stand to lose something of inestimable value

I’m a recovering Kim Hill listener. That is to say, I used to listen to her show regularly but haven’t done so for years (for reasons which I won’t bother elaborating on, but which many readers of this blog will understand and possibly sympathise with).

Last Saturday morning, however, I was heading to Wellington in the car and turned on the radio to hear the 9 o’clock news, and when Hill came back on the air after the bulletin and told us who her next guest was, I was curious enough to stay tuned.

Back in May, when her pending appointment as Governor-General was announced, I heard Dame Cindy Kiro being interviewed by Kathryn Ryan and was cautiously impressed. I wrote then that Kiro came across as intelligent, personable, thoughtful, warm, grounded and articulate.

I felt even more positive after hearing her on Hill’s show last Saturday and see no reason to revise any of those adjectives. In fact I can add a new one: humble.  Kiro obviously didn’t get any head starts in life and wears her lofty status lightly and unpretentiously.

Now here’s the thing. At one stage Hill questioned her about the exquisite korowai (cloak) that she wore for her swearing-in ceremony. Kiro spoke reverently about its history and the honour of wearing it, but then segued very neatly to the vice-regal chain of office and other British traditions and symbols associated with the job of Governor-General.

Whether intentional or not (and I suspect it was), it was a useful reminder to Hill and her listeners that New Zealand’s British heritage is central to our constitutional arrangements - indeed, to the way our society is organised - and therefore equally worthy of being honoured. “All of these things have a history that connects us,” Kiro said.

She then went further. Talking about her whakapapa, she declared: “I’m proud to be Maori and I’m proud to be British. I’ve spent a lifetime occupying both spaces.”

This struck me as a quietly radical statement, given the febrile mood of the times and all the polarising rhetoric about the supposedly baneful effects of colonisation.

We’re accustomed to people of part-Maori ancestry reciting their tribal affiliations in detail but not mentioning the presumably inconvenient fact – often obvious from their surnames and facial features – that they also have European antecedents.

Kiro, on the other hand, not only acknowledges her British father, who came from a mining town in the north of England, but is unapologetically proud of that side of her lineage. In fact she made a point during the interview with Hill, who didn’t strike me as being terribly interested in exploring Kiro’s paternal ancestry, of stressing the traditions that connect us – not just Maori, but British too.  “I’m comfortable in both worlds and that’s what I want for the country.”

Heading down from the Remutaka Pass (now quite properly given its correct spelling after decades of bastardisation as “Rimutaka”), I gave a little whoop of approval.  Kiro’s embrace of both sides of her heritage stands in stark, refreshing contrast to the ruling cabal’s relentless emphasis on the things that supposedly divide us.

She could have gone a step further and said that the relationship between the two main races in New Zealand is possibly unique in the way that each has absorbed some of the best qualities of the other. We stand to lose something of inestimable value if this is undermined by the politics of division.

Kiro's reminder of our shared heritage couldn’t come at a more urgent moment, because race relations are currently under greater strain than at any time since the 19th century. The proponents of the poisonous ideology known as identity politics, who hold that Maori interests can never be compatible with those of Pakeha, are doing their best to drive a wedge between two races that have historically enjoyed a mostly harmonious and respectful relationship that the rest of the world looks at with admiration and not a little envy.

The Covid-19 pandemic has come at an opportune moment for these agitators. At a time when social anxiety is already stretched to breaking point, they have exacerbated the tension by promoting the inflammatory falsehood that Maori have been disadvantaged – the implication being through wilful discrimination – by the vaccination rollout.

In fact Maori, except for a very few in remote places, have had the same opportunities as everyone else to line up for their shots, and have been criticised by some of their own MPs for their reluctance to come forward.

Significantly, vaccination rates are lowest in areas with a high Maori population, such as Northland, Tairawhiti and Rotorua. While there are remote areas in some of those regions (the far North and the East Cape, for example) where a special effort is needed to reach everyone, in most locations it’s no more difficult for Maori to find a vaccination clinic than it is for the rest of the population.

In my own town of Masterton, whose population is 21 per cent Maori, the latest figures show that 61 per cent of local Pasifika people have had two jabs compared with only 44 per cent of Maori. The figures for first jabs are 79 percent for Pasifika and 64 percent for Maori. The question has to be asked: if Pasifika people can find their way to a clinic, why not Maori?

They can hardly claim ignorance of the risks from the pandemic. There can be no one alive and sentient in New Zealand who doesn’t know that Covid-19 has the potential to kill, or that vaccination greatly reduces the risk of illness and death.

Yet despite enormous outlays of public money and all manner of incentives – free food, entertainment, prizes and specially equipped buses with names created to appeal to the hard-to-reach (e.g. "Shot Bro") – the Maori vaccination rate remains stubbornly low. Even the Super Saturday Vaxathon, which was specially targeted at young Maori, produced an underwhelming result.

Maori activists (or more correctly, part-Maori activists who acknowledge only one part of their whakapapa – the part that gives them political leverage) continue to claim, contrary to all the evidence, that this is the result of a racist system that marginalises Maori.  But it’s not unreasonable to ask whether, after decades of being told that their needs are different from the rest of the community, some Maori now have such a heightened sense of entitlement that they expect a mobile clinic to pull up at their front door.  

The risk now is that the slow Maori uptake will delay the achievement of the government’s national vaccination target, and thus prolong the profound economic hardship and social disruption caused by lockdowns.

In that case, there’s potential for a backlash against Maori, which is in no one’s interests. Perhaps it was in recognition of this unpalatable prospect that the government a few days ago committed another $120 million of taxpayers’ money to boost Maori vaccination rates – a handout which in itself can only reinforce resentment that the rest of the country is having to pick up the tab for Maori who are not pulling their weight as part of Jacinda Ardern’s much-vaunted team of 5 million.  

A backlash, of course, might be exactly what the promoters of identity politics want. Open hostility and competition between Maori and Pakeha would further their separatist agenda and place at risk New Zealand’s now-fragile status as a country of generally (some might say overwhelmingly) harmonious race relations.

Which brings me back to Cindy Kiro. The new Governor-General could do the country no greater favour than by using the influence of her office to refocus attention on the values and interests that all New Zealanders – Maori, Pakeha, Pasifika and the multiple other ethnic groups that have made their home here – share in common.



Max Ritchie said...

When you’ve got someone like the so-called Race Relations Commissioner acting like a race relations bigot then the horse has bolted. It’d be great if things changed but there’s no sign they will. The representative of the Mahuta family in Cabinet is too busy looting for that, aided and abetted by the Labour Party which seems to be hell-bent on self-destruction. There is a huge back-lash developing which does not augur well for the sort of country you seek, Karl.

Doug Longmire said...

Thank You Karl,
that is one of the most penetrating and touching articles I have read. You have outlined the situation in painful clarity.
I have been living in New Zealand for over 70 years now. I am always proud of our egalitarian society. and our race relations being some of the best in the world, and in my many years, these relations have been marked by goodwill and positive attitude between the vast majority of people I have known and worked with.
Our nation is made up of many ethnic groups, all of whom came here to make a better life.
However, this is now changing rapidly, and our whole way of life is being eroded. A small but powerful group of activists are determined to divide our nation along racial lines, to create a latter day apartheid nation, with 50%+ of the decision making and power being handed over to a cabal of racists.
One of the major tragedies in this is that it cannot and will not benefit Maori people, I mean ordinary people, not the racist activists.
The advancement of the racial division can only create anger and resentment between the races, particularly against Maori. This cannot in any conceivable way be regarded as progress. It is regressive.

Doug Longmire said...
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voteNO Coalition said...

I'd be a little cautious about her politics and track record.

See analysis here

Ricardo said...


One question. If the new Governor-General is as grounded and healing as you say, then how did her nomination get made by or get past the controlling national cabal of your earlier piece?

Alexandra Corbett Dekanova said...

I absolutely agree. I lived in communist Czechoslovakia and I still remember that even our Geography teacher talked very positively about New Zealand and especially about the interracial relationships here, though when talking about countries round the world he always had to say something negative about capitalist ones.
May there be more part-Maoris like our new Governour General. It would be very good to hear from them. We Non-Maoris should be careful and distinguish between the politically motivated activists and common people.

Alexandra Corbett Dekanova

Karl du Fresne said...

VoteNO Coalition,
If you look at my blog post in May, you’ll see that I expressed some reservations then about Kiro's appointment. Yes, there were concerns about aspects of her performance as Children’s Commissioner, but that was quite a long time ago. The Children’s Commissioner, like almost everyone associated with the thoroughly discredited Human Rights Commission, is prone to ideological capture (just look at the most recent appointee) and Kiro may be wiser now than then. For the time being, I’m happy to give her the benefit of the doubt. (For the record, I was strongly against the anti-smacking law which Kiro vigorously supported.)

Karl du Fresne said...

That’s a fair question - one that I asked myself when I heard the interview, but I judge her on the basis of what she said. We shall see.

Andy Espersen said...

I read a bit more into the fact that our Maori are lagging behind in their vaccination rate than you do, Karl : It seems to me that Maori have more instinctive understanding of Freedom with capital F than the rest of us – or let me be so proud as to say that here I exclude myself by stating that I was born in Denmark! If you read Danish history, if you sing Danish national songs you will forever come across the word Freedom – and for over a thousand years we Danes can find many proud, successful fights for freedom (as can for example Afghanistan).

Maori are like that : they just don’t like to be told what to do – period. And there is the True Freedom. We have Brian Tamaki, a martyr for freedom, who is now facing a lengthy prison sentence and who is now practically not reported on by the main media that - as they refuse to give him publicity. We hear that yesterday Maori members of an anti-lockdown movement were barred by police from entering Auckland. We heard about the Maori woman who chose to go to jail for two weeks rather than obey orders not to see her dying father – another martyr for freedom. During the level 4 lockdown I witnessed here in Nelson a commotion in a neighbouring street : a group of Maori had had a get-together somewhere; some officious busybody had phoned the boys in blue who had arrived to break up the party and send those vile criminals back to their respective homes. They all went, of course – but they certainly did not go willingly. I must be honest – I enjoyed and admired the language they served up to the police in the process (all great English, by the way!)!!

Maori lag behind the general vaccination rate simply because they are a free people who will always drag their heels when given orders – unless, of course, they have freely chosen to follow a leader in some worthy cause. Then they obey orders loyally, proudly and gladly - and face death rather than surrender.

No – I would rather Dame Cindy will not use her influence in the way you suggest, Karl.

Unknown said...

Great post. About time we had some good news from the political front.

Trev1 said...

In Wellington and the Hutt Maori and Pasifika of all ages were given priority access to vaccination back in June/July when supplies were limited and before the general population over 65 were called forward. So to that extent the health system is indeed "racist". If Cindy Kiro's sentiments are genuine, she certainly has her work cut out with the other Cindy who is fostering racial division at every turn, the latest step being the outrageous "three waters" theft. And there's much more poison set to be tipped into the well including the race-baiting New Zealand history curriculum from next year. This government is trashing our long history of shared values and respect toward one another in its pursuit of a radical Marxist agenda and power.

pdm said...

Very interesting Karl. Like you and probably for the same reasons I do not listen to Kim Hill.

What you say about GG Cindy Kiro is a revelation because I have her down as `Tribal Labour' and have said so on occasions on various blogs and possibly Facebook as well. Based on your summary of the interview she may well prove me wrong and that will be a very good thing - New Zealand needs a strong independent GG at the moment.

As you say - time will tell.

Eamon Sloan said...
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Marc said...

I was very angry when the $120,000,000 of tax payer money was awarded to encourage the vaccine hesitant Maori was announced. That is, for about 300,000 yet vaccinated, $400 per person! Nothing more than blatant pork barrelling, and who will be enriched with this theft? If there was ever a recent case for the Auditor General to investigate this must be number one.

Max Ritchie said...

I wouldn’t hold your breath, Marc, this is the same government which gave Tainui, with assets in the billions, $370,000 to refurbish the Maori King’s office building!

Rory said...

Thank you Karl,

in these days of MSM opaqueness i always turn to your blog.
I am Irish and from my arrival here many many years ago i did feel and was part of the society here with no race issues - just the usual Irish Jokes over the years etc which I loved being joked about with and never in any way did associate it with racism etc etc..........

It was the Billy T.James era as well as John Clarke ( Fred Dagg !) era and others.
So what went wrong, that is the question?. When you say you are Kiwi, say you are a New Zealander or say you are Maori- Surely the answer should proudly be incorporating all three
"I am a New Zealander and a Maori by race" if you are that . I never ever heard it expressed like this.

It would help to stop the divissivness. Be Proud as was Billy T James & John Clark-
We are all New Zealanders with different races making us that.-Kiwis .

Wine Gonzo said...

Hi Karl. What a great read. So pleased we have a GG with such a mature attitude.

On your last point, I had an interesting chat with my father lately. For the last 3 or 4 years, he has employed a Maori guy and his family to manage our family farm near Rotorua. When Covid-19 first appeared last March, our employee quickly whipped all his 5 children out of school for fear of the virus. And yet, as late as last weekend, he had not got the vaccine for himself, his wife, or the two children who are aged over 12. Apparently, he finally went and did it this weekend just been.

This was truly baffling to me. I myself am not vaccinated and don't intend to be, but that stems from my attitude that Covid has been grossly overplayed at every opportunity, my low personal risk, a distrust of drug companies and a strong belief that no government should ever dictate what medical treatments its people must take -- that way lies damnation. But to have someone who was genuinely fearful of the disease do nothing to reduce his risk struck me as a level of cognitive dissonance that is hard to explain.

Cheers, AC