Maori more important?

SIMON DAY
Last updated 05:00 25/05/2014

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Maori dislike Asian immigrants more than any other group of New Zealanders, a new poll shows.

Asians are blamed for taking jobs from Maori, driving Maori to Australia, lacking understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi and competing for cultural funding.

"The diversity of New Zealand is beginning to undermine the investment we have in biculturalism. [Maori] don't believe new migrants are sympathetic to biculturalism and the Treaty," said Massey University pro vice-chancellor, Professor Paul Spoonley.

Surveys show Maori have an increasingly negative perception of Asians. It is caused by "competition in the labour market . . . and competition for cultural resources," Spoonley said.

Maori have a unique position in New Zealand and advancing their cultural and social needs must be put ahead of the needs of immigrants, said Maori Party leader, Te Ururoa Flavell.

"[Are Maori] more important than anyone else? Possibly. I think that the most important thing is that the people of the country recognise our unique part in the fabric of this nation," said Flavell.

He is concerned immigrants are taking much needed jobs from Maori, contributing to disproportionate emigration to Australia. As the indigenous people of New Zealand, the government should put the needs of Maori ahead of new migrants he said.

According to an Asia NZ Foundation survey, Maori views on Asian immigration have deteriorated in the past year. While most New Zealanders increasingly saw the benefit of Asian immigrants, 44 per cent of Maori believed New Zealanders were more negative towards people from Asia compared with a year ago.

That is well above the 27 per cent of all New Zealanders who are less positive towards Asians than last year.

A majority of Maori also believed New Zealand was allowing too much investment from Asia.

While having no particular issue with Asians, Mana Party leader Hone Harawira (whose policies include restricting immigrants from buying homes and requiring them to build) said Maori are worried about the effects all immigration has on the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand.

"I think Maori are specifically concerned about immigration. They don't see that the Treaty is being properly protected. If more and more people come here that don't know about it, then there is the likelihood that less people will want to care about it. But Maori people do," Harawira said.

Census 2013 figures show 598,605 people of Maori ethnicity living in New Zealand, the second largest ethnic group in the country, after pakeha, with 14.9 per cent of the population.

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The Asian population is now New Zealand's third largest at 471,711, according to the census. It has grown from 6.6 per cent in 2001 to 11.8 per cent in 2013.

Spoonley predicts that within the next two decades the Asian population will be larger than the Maori population.

"The fastest growing group in New Zealand are the Asian community. Already in Auckland they almost outnumber Maori and Pasifika," he said.

But the growing influence of new cultures in New Zealand will only be surface deep compared with the history and influence of Maori, said Maori leader, Ranginui Walker, who supports Asian immigration.

Maori had to fight for many years to rescue their language and culture and now immigration is being used by those who want to undermine Maori's presence in New Zealand.

"Biculturalism is the basic dynamic of New Zealand because the tangata whenua is the base culture. Those people that oppose that ideology try to diffuse it by talking multiculturalism. Their experience of multiculturalism is ethnic food," Walker said.

While Asian voter turnout is low, especially in the first generation, Spoonley says there could be a tipping point in demographics, where Asians will seek specific political representation in parliament.

He said this could lead to a very different power dynamic 50 years from now, when the ethnic groups outnumber pakeha.

MINORITIES NEED TO HARDEN UP SAYS COLLINS

Ethnic minorities always cop it in election year but they need to soldier on, Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collins has told a conference.

In one of her first public outings since her well-publicised "break" following the Oravida controversy, Collins gave the opening address at the EthnicA 2014 conference in Auckland's Mt Wellington yesterday.

"Do not let others define who you are. Do it yourself," she said.

She concluded her speech with a sentiment that could have applied to her own recent struggles:

"It's election year," she said.

"All sorts of things are going to be said. Some of them are going to be really hurtful. These things will pass."

Hong Kong-born Aucklander Bevan Chuang, pictured, who gained fame after admitting to a two-year affair with Auckland mayor Len Brown, agreed that criticism of migrants rose in election years.

Chuang said in good economic times Asians were blamed for buying all the houses, in bad economic times they were blamed for taking jobs.

- Sunday Star Times

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