White immigrants row

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 04/09/2011

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A Maori academic says immigration by whites should be restricted because they pose a threat to race relations due to their "white supremacist" attitudes.

The controversial comments come in response to a Department of Labour report, obtained exclusively by the Sunday Star-Times, which found Maori are more likely to express anti-immigration sentiment than Pakeha or any other ethnic group.

Margaret Mutu, head of Auckland University's department of Maori studies, agreed with the findings and called on the government to restrict the number of white migrants arriving from countries such as South Africa, England and the United States as they brought attitudes destructive to Maori.

"They do bring with them, as much as they deny it, an attitude of white supremacy, and that is fostered by the country," she said.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, who migrated here from the Netherlands, has hit out at Mutu's view, saying there is no justification for anybody to discriminate on the basis of colour, race or nationality.

Mutu said Maori were generally supportive of immigration from Asian countries, and she was happy to welcome white immigrants who understood issues of racism against Maori.

"They are in a minority just like Pakeha in this country. You have a minority of Pakeha who are very good, they recognise the racism, they object to it and speak out strongly against it."

The Labour Department migrant report surveyed almost 1000 people on their perceptions of ethnic groups coming here. Maori respondents were the most likely to agree with negative statements about immigrants, such as that they threaten New Zealand culture and steal jobs from Kiwis.

They were also more likely to disagree that immigrants contribute to New Zealand's culture and economy.

The Labour and Immigration Research Centre report also found:

Samoans were the migrant group which received the highest negative rating by all respondents, one in five viewing them negatively.

British and Australian migrants received the highest positive ratings, just 5% disliking the British and 4% viewing Australians negatively.

Pacific Islanders (91%) were most likely to find New Zealand welcoming.

It is not the first time Maori commentators have sparked controversy by suggesting racial immigration policies.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia caused an international backlash when she call for migration to be reduced – particularly from western countries – in 2007. At the time, Turia accused the government of trying to stop the "browning" of New Zealand through immigration.

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De Bres said: "We should not stop people coming on the basis on their skin. It's racial prejudice and racial discrimination." He cautioned that racist views were not limited to one ethnic group.

De Bres said he recently attended a celebration at the Maori King's residence where different migrant communities were welcomed onto the marae, proving many Maori are welcoming.

"The positive thing to do is for Maori and migrants to engage more to understand each other."

Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley said his research showed while other ethnic groups' attitudes toward migrants had been approving, Maori perception had become increasingly negative. Anti-immigration sentiment was fed by Maori fears that multicultural policies were diminishing policies concerning Maori, he said.

Mutu said she was concerned that relations between Maori and other minority groups had deteriorated.

"Maori feel very threatened as more groups come in and swamp them."

But Auckland University of Technology Maori history professor Paul Moon said extremist Maori views were held only by a minority and people should be wary of reading too much into the report.

He said Mutu's comments did not equate with the reality of many Maori inter-marrying with Pakeha.

- Sunday Star Times

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