Below, another brilliant article by historian and former Labour Cabinet Minister, Michael Bassett.

It should be compulsory reading for all New Zealanders.


As cabinet ministers traipse around the country, feverishly talking up Budget largesse in the hope it will help their re-election, they inadvertently let slip what Labour’s key priorities are. A recent senior citizens’ meeting was told that grants to Maori are top priority. Pasifika come in a distant second, with disadvantaged youth somewhat further behind. Ordinary Europeans, Indians, Chinese and others, who together make up a big majority of our population, don’t get much of a look in.

So, let’s examine the legal definition of this government’s favourite citizens. Who is a Maori? Right up until passage of the Maori Affairs Amendment Act 1974, a Maori was anyone who had half Maori ethnicity or more. A half Maori could choose to be classified as a Maori or a non-Maori. Less than half, and the law said one could not legally claim to be Maori. But, from the earliest days of settlement, there was a pattern of Pakeha men marrying Maori women. Significantly more men than women were amongst the early settlers from overseas, and many married Maori women. Within two generations, the children from intermarriage reduced the number of people who could legally claim to be Maori. Some will tell you that it was disease that carried off many Maori. It did. But inter-marriage was primarily responsible for reducing their numbers. The rate increased when Maori moved to the cities from the 1940s. By the 1970s, those who could claim to be Maori were fast disappearing. Skin colour at any gathering with Maori was noticeably lighter. One rarely saw anyone with a tattoo or a moko. Maori electoral rolls contained many fewer names than the general rolls. Some Maori leaders were worried.

In 1974 Norman Kirk’s government re-defined a Maori as “a person of the Maori race, and any descendant”. The National Party’s then spokesperson on Maori Affairs, Allan McCready, complained in Parliament – a little extravagantly – that the definition was now so wide that “anyone who rides past a marae on a pushbike can claim to be a Maori”. He noted that any special privileges available to a Maori would now be available to a much wider section of the community. At the time, other MPs scoffed, but McCready turned out to be right. From 1995 birth and deaths office collected ethnicity data based on self-identification rather than their DNA. The numbers defining themselves as Maori rose from roughly 8% of the total population in 1974 to 17% at the last census, and might exceed that if Maori have remembered to return their recent census forms.

There are now no full-blooded Maori alive, and few, if any, half Maori. The 17% of New Zealand’s population who claim to be Maori all have more DNA from non-Maori ancestors. In most cases, much more. In other words, if we went back fifty years to the 1973 definition, there would be no Maori left. However, governments these days are willing to bestow special favours on all those with a Maori ancestor, no matter how far back, if they wish to be classified as a Maori. Many aren’t interested; while others perceive a chance to jump ahead of people of other ethnicities in New Zealand and access the largesse being distributed by recent governments to Maori. In the newspapers and on TV, older New Zealanders keep noticing that people with little or no visible signs of being Maori claim to be Maori. Ancient forms of self-identification are becoming common; for women a chin moko; for men a tattoo of some kind.

Because Maori numbers had declined over several generations, few spoke Te Reo. As late as 1990 the Maori dictionary was a very slender volume. The Maori Language Commission is extraordinarily busy these days churning out new words. Much so-called Te Reo that children are being taught consists of newly-created words. Instead of learning better English, Spanish or Chinese, the major languages of the modern world, they are learning a newly-created artificial language of no use anywhere else than New Zealand. Much Maori culture these days is of recent creation, not an ancient historic culture. It’s being made up as they go along.

The current craze for privileging the Maori world view is being driven by the Maori elite who use it to justify themselves and their status. The Labour Party hasn’t explained why the party which once prided itself on its international connections has decided instead to make the promotion of a newly-created culture with no international standing its prime reason for existence. Nor has it explained why it isn’t requiring those same aristocrats to spend more of the money they receive and have pocketed over the years from the Kiwi taxpayer on promoting the health, welfare and livelihoods of the Maori people as a whole.

All my life I have viewed Maori as an integral part of New Zealand society, fully deserving of equal treatment. I protested against the decision to send the All Blacks without any Maori to South Africa in 1960; cheered Kirk’s decision to withhold visas to a white-only Springbok tour coming to New Zealand in 1973; and as an MP marched against Robert Muldoon’s sanctioning of a whites-only Springbok Tour in 1981. I served on the Waitangi Tribunal for a decade judging Maori claims, supporting some, rejecting others. Maori are New Zealanders like the rest of us. However, the current Labour government seems determined to drive a racial wedge into our society by constantly favouring one ethnicity and the outlandish claims about the superiority of its culture over all others. If you think there’s something wrong about this government’s priorities, you aren’t alone. What about joining the rest of us who would like to return to a colour-blind New Zealand where members of all cultures have equal rights and equal responsibilities?




The latest UN conventions under UNDRIP state a person has the inalienable right to identify without challenge as anything they want. This doubles down for the meaning of who is indigenous ?.

Well said. Thank you for your contribution to this issue.

I had a good Maori mate once who would say-” We’re cuzzies by assimilation–my great grandfather ate yours”

Undeniably true Hope fully this madness will end

This will be anathema to the deluded Labour minsters. How dare Michael Bassett (a white male no less !!) call them out for their dishonesty?

In several of these forums, I have made similar points, albeit a lot less eloquently than Dr Bassett, that when a government begins to entrench laws based on race ahead of citizenship it becomes necessary to define legally who is “us” and who are “they”. Note that Labour have avoided doing this publicly-they prefer a more Orwellian double speak of “equality” and “improving outcomes”.
In 2022 the American academic Barbara F Walter published a work “How Civil Wars Start & How to Stop Them”.
One of her conclusions is that conflict almost always begins with a previously entitled group who believe they have a birth right to authority, being removed from power. Sound familiar?
When you have spent years believing you are entitled to special treatment-equality feels like discrimination.
SRJ–perhaps you can have one further tilt at being Prime Minister? “Once more in to the breach etc?” 12 months of SRJ might just stop the rot?

It certainly makes it difficult for families who are blended. I was imported from Scotland as a kid, married a 4th generation pakeha lass who had a maori child, now all but one of our grand-children, and all of our great-grand-children can claim some maori blood. Trying to discuss this amongst ourselves is going to get more difficult over time. All my working life I’ve paid taxes to this country and it’s now in worse condition than it’s ever been before! Dr. Bassett is right – this country has a wedge clean through it.

The hope is Labours party vote will collapse, to a point the Labour MPs that gain seats, ensure those Labour list MPs will all have to look for jobs in the real world…

I’ve always voted strategically, recognising the main parties (up until this Labour government) tend to deliver something similar…Íts definitely time to vote strategically again, and drain the swamp (which is about the best line Trump has come up with)..

If the decision was between Jacinda Ardern (white) and David Seymour (part Maori), who should get the treatment.
I guess, most people would not decide on racial lines

Thank you! How do we end this madness

    Everyone needs to register as Maori at their local GP. Then the woke wonks will need to come up with an actual definition. Which is going to be very hard logically given the acceptance recently that we can self identify as a man or a woman depending on which way the wind is blowing.

A fantastic read that should be compulsory in schools – but will only result in Bassett being labelled a racist – the laziest response these days as it doesn’t require debate.
For my sins I work in the public sector and we have this new artificial culture rammed down our throats every day of the week, whether we like it or not, and if we don’t participate we are frowned upon.
Indeed, all policy discussion these days starts with “how can we make a change to improve the outcome for Maori”, not “how can we improve outcomes for ALL New Zealanders”.
Make no mistake, this is a wedge being deliberately driven by the Labour party – and they will pay for it in October.
But unfortunately it is so ingrained in the public service, no Government will be able to change the course and it will result in some pretty ugly results on society.

The question I am going to ask our politicians who has the balls to introduce a motion to reclassify a Maori in Parliament.
As written by Michael Bassett right up until passage of the Maori Affairs Act 1974.
A half Maori could choose to be classified as a half Maori or a Maori.
Less than half & the law said one could not claim to be a Maori.
In 1974 Norman Kirks Government redefined a Maori a person of the Maori race & any descendant.
We need to redefine a Maori again to stop the handouts to people (Oligarchs) who are not a half cast & keep the money.
There are too many so called Maori people claiming money from the Government without a security check.
The money handouts are far too easy & is not getting to the genuine grassroot Māori citizen.

If the National Party has the courage to join ‘the rest of us’ to whom Michael refers in the last paragraph of his excellent piece, it will win with a ‘referee stopped contest’ decision.

A well articulated and rational response to Labor’s irresponsible actions…A “must” for all New Zealanders, regardless of their ethnicity, to read Michael Bassett’s letter…One Country – One people!

The Māori people’s own oral histories make a big thing of their ancestors’ great voyages of migration from somewhere else. This means that they are no more or less indigenous than any other descendants of immigrant families. Either all New Zealand born people are indigenous, or none of us are. I’m going with the none of us option.

A superb truth about the attack on New Zealanders.
Yes – New Zealanders we are-lock stock and barrel..
it’s a peculiar reversal of South Africa–
We love our country- we are one.
What part of that do they not understand,
We are one!.- why divide a Nation so respected for being inclusive. ??

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