Heather du Plessis-Allan: We are well down the path of politicising ethnicity

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Thu, 1 Jul 2021, 9:03PM
(Photo / File)
(Photo / File)

Heather du Plessis-Allan: We are well down the path of politicising ethnicity

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Thu, 1 Jul 2021, 9:03PM

There’s a brilliant piece online today by Auckland University Professor Elizabeth Rata talking about He Puapua, the government discussion document on separate Maori systems. 

She argues we are at a crossroads as a country: we either decide to be a democratic-nationalist one, where there is only one category of people which is citizenship and everyone is entitled to the same treatment, or we decide to become an ethno-nationalist country, where we are divided into ethnic groups, and those who got here first claim “a particular political status with entitlements not available to others”.

She says if we go ahead with the kind of thinking in He Puapua, that there should be separate courts, a separate chamber of parliament, a separate health authority for Māori, and we end up moving towards the latter, where ethnicity is politicised.

As I say, she says we’re at a cross roads. She’s wrong, I think. We’re way past that. 

This is the new normal. Arguing against it is unusual and brave because we are that far down that track.  

On Thursday Willie Jackson, the Minster for Māori Development, gave a speech where he announced the next steps on He Puapua, which is to come up with a strategy. 

ACT then revealed that government agencies now need to make sure that at least five percent of their contracts are given to Māori businesses.

James Shaw is back in the news again for his comment a few weeks ago blaming ‘a group of Pākehā farmers from down south’ for giving him troubles with his land plans. He could’ve just said farmers, because that is the common feature of the group that is motivating their actions, but he threw Pākehā in because he was talking to a Māori radio station.

It’s hard to come to any conclusion other than that he was deliberately using ethnicity as a tool of division. He was using it like a slur. 

Grainne Moss got pushed out of her job running Oranga Tamariki amidst calls for her replacement to be Māori. She was the wrong colour for the job in the end.  

I hate the fact that we are doing this to ourselves. That we’re making colour a thing when we are better than that and should be moving in the opposite direction.  

But I think it might be too late. I suspect we’re already well down the path towards believing that one ethnic group should receive greater entitlements than any other, and I don’t think any major political party has the courage to turn that around.