"... If you're going to treat us like some new breed that's just arrived here, and wipe out our rights, there will be trouble in this country … Tonight, when you go to bed, 25% of all babies under 5 have Maori descent. Tonight, when you go to bed, 70% of all Maori are under the age of 40. They'll either be positive and progressive citizens, and they'll be under our management, not yours. They'll live under our way of bringing ourselves up, not yours, and we'll have a far better nation."
That was said by John Tamihere, the Maori Party President, at last weeks' Taxpayer Union debate. He didn't include the "or" after the "either" but his implied race war as the alternative hardly needs to be spelled out.
The Maori Party has the best theory of power out of any political party in NZ with relentless and uncompromising advocacy for the interests of their people. Of course, they do not represent all Maori, or even the majority, but they represent a race-conscious segment of their people. They are very clear that a True Maori is one who embraces tradition and shares the authentic view of Maori racial self-determination.
This is a problem that is not going back in the box. Much of New Zealand domestic policy in the last fifty years has been geared towards disarming Maori radicalism and it appears to have failed utterly.
In an interview a few days later Rawiri Waititi, the leader of Te Pati Maori, defended a statement the party had made on its website earlier that "the Maori genetic makeup is stronger than others."
"It's stronger in me, and I've got a whole lot of genetics in me," he retorted with a smile.
"Is that racist?" The timid interviewer probed lightly.
"How can it be racist when you're trying to empower a people that are climbing out of the bottom of the bonnet of colonial violence for the last 183 years? How is that racist when all you're doing is trying to build your people up? … Why can't we call ourselves magic? Why can't we call ourselves proud? Why can't we believe in ourselves? Why can't we say to our people that their genetics MEAN something? That you can be proud of."
As much as ACT's Seymour and NZF's Peters hate each other, they do have one thing in common—Maori ancestry and their belief in a liberal, democratic, race-neutral country. Seymour has promised a referendum on the Treaty and Peters has stated that Maori are not indigenous.
While the United Nations weaponisation of indigenous to mean "non-European people" is dangerous, the idea itself shouldn't be abandoned. To be indigenous is to "spring up from the land", evoking a deep connection between soil and blood. A family who cultivates land for generations is indigenous to that land. I know the feeling. I have felt it myself walking the roads, fields, and forests of my ancestral towns. That's the feeling Tamihere and Waititi are cultivating in their people.
Can you put the lid back on Pandora's Box? The Maori Party is more popular than ever, polling at +5% with under 25s—a number that will inevitably grow as those Maori babies grow up with the role models of Tamihere and Waititi in front of them. Immigration could play a role in stealing this future from them, with modelling showing Maori could be displaced by Asians as the 2nd largest ethnic group in the country if immigration isn't massively reduced. However their support will only be galvanised as the reactionary force that opposes them grows.
Seymour and Peters are good 20th century liberals who believe that your DNA can mean nothing, you can belong nowhere, you can move anywhere, and be anything. Maori are rootless people whose ancestors moved here 700 years ago, and really came from China before that. Perhaps the CCP can use that to legitimise a claim over New Zealand? The descendants of early settlers are rootless people who moved here 200 years ago, no different and with no greater claim to the future than the Dutch immigrant who just stepped off the plane two decades ago. Does anyone really believe that?
Without a common faith or a strongman, how do you keep a postmodern multi-ethnic society together? Race can be transcended, but only through either religion or raw power. Blood is thicker than water. We all know it, but many are afraid to say it. Insisting that "we are all one people" as the country burns down around you isn't a realistic solution, because no one really believes it when the rubber hits the road. Belief in a "sacred democracy" or "one person one vote" isn't going to save you from what's coming.
The views of Winston Peters and David Seymour on race are being rejected before our very eyes. Yes, every now and then there'll be a small backlash, like perhaps at this election.
Te Pati Maori will inevitably be back as part of a future government, and they will be back with a vengeance.
The early settlers of New Zealand and their descendants don't belong anywhere else but here either. We'll all have to find some way to keep getting along—but acting like no one is indigenous, that we can all be blended together, and that anyone from anywhere has an equal claim to a stake in the future of this land has become a recipe for disaster.