• Fri, 20, Jan, 2017 - 5:00:AM

TOP 30 OF 2016 - 3. We need to talk about Māori ‘privilege’

Image: Rotorua Māori fence design / Philip Morton / Flickr

First published on Monday the 18th of April, 2016, this piece comes in at number 3 in the top 30 most read Villainesse stories of 2016.

Aotearoa. A beautiful name for a beautiful country. To me, the names Aotearoa and New Zealand are equally important. I love both, just as I love the magical place they denote. But when people object to me using the word Aotearoa to describe my homeland, I’m rather taken aback. I mean really? Are we still here in 2016?

Over the past days (since I wrote a column about water rights), I’ve had people tell me there’s “no such place” as Aotearoa, and that “our country is called New Zealand”. I’ve been called a supporter of “apartheid”, a “white saviour” and a “racist”. I’ve had people tell me that they would like to “declare [themselves] Māori,” so that they can “benefit from the privileges”.

Privilege is a word that inspires strong reactions. It flies in the face of deeply held notions of human fairness. It’s an essential concept to grasp, if a challenging one. In basic terms, it describes a societal structure in which certain groups receive arbitrary unearned benefits, while others struggle through no fault of their own.

If the commenters on my social media accounts this weekend were to be believed, Māori is one such “privileged” group. Because everyone knows that Māori earn the highest salaries in New Zealand. That Māori voices are the ones we hear the most from in the news. That Māori occupy all of the positions of power in our Government. That Māori are buying up all of the expensive houses in Auckland. That Māori have the best health outcomes, are the least likely to be arrested and have the lowest levels of unemployment.

Yeah… right.

What we do know is that Māori earn a median annual income of $22,500 while Pakeha earn a median annual income of $30,900. That Māori perspectives are scarce at major media organisations. That there are 14 Māori MPs in a Parliament of 121, and only five of those are in Government. That less than half of Māori who have lived at the same address for the past five years own their own homes, and that Māori home ownership is lowest in Auckland. That Māori have a life expectancy of seven-eight years less than Pakeha, are prosecuted at higher rates than Pakeha when suspected of the same crimes, and have an unemployment rate of 12.1 per cent, compared to the Pakeha unemployment rate of 4.4 per cent.

Those Māori privileges… don’t they sound great? 


  • Maori /
  • Privilege /
  • Racism /
  • Aotearoa /
  • New Zealand /
  • Pakeha /
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Comments ( 4 )

  • Jim Arona's picture

    Jim Arona - Tue, 2016-04-19 12:37

    If only Pakeha heeded the voice that said ownership of land is not transferred when it is done through fraud or deception. But they don't. Mostly, people decry wrongs that have been documented historically, but there is no effort made to redress the loss of resources to their rightful owners when it is Maori. The claims being offered to iwi and scholarships for Maori students are a drop in the bucket when compared to what was stolen. How patronising it must feel to be a Pakeha who is denied the privilege of doing the right thing and surrendering land rights that were taken illegally. This really is the bigotry of low expectations.
  • huka hori's picture

    huka hori - Tue, 2016-04-19 16:07

    @MIA2.0 - interesting that you consider Māori access to university in this way racism. However, the credentialisation of education is designed to exclude, rather than include Māori (and anyone not from specific groups of society whose values form the cultural capital of Western educative structures). It's sad that many non-Māori in Aotearoa cry racism when they are unable to benefit from the fraud of their ancestors' systems. It doesn't feel patronising at all to get into university based on my skin colour, rather than my grades because grades which measure how I fare amongst knowledge irrelevant to me, isn't an adequate means to determine my ability to theorise and apply praxis. Don't make assumptions about people and how they might feel - that's just stereotyping which is the foundation of racism. If schools taught manaakitanga, whanaungatanga and whakapapa instead of maths, science and English, then I might not need policy to address the inequality of a knowledge paradigm that does little to include what I value as a Māori person. When you experience 'real' racism, rather than what you perceive as racism, then feel free to make informed comment.
  • Villainesse Editor's picture

    Villainesse Editor - Wed, 2016-04-20 15:36

    Just a quick note that we have not removed any comments on this thread. It appears that some users have decided to self-censor their remarks.
  • tu muchkaz's picture

    tu muchkaz - Wed, 2016-10-26 18:45

    'Maori privelege' is a slogan used in advertising campaigns (ie propaganda) to control the minds of ignorant rednek masses. That Pakeha are actually lapping this crap up greedily is disgusting.
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