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Peters Speech: Massy University

An address by Rt Hon Winston Peters at Massey University at 11.00am, 2 April 2003

“A New Zealand Identity”

We are a country known for rugby, adventure, rugby, wide open spaces, rugby, sheep and …..well rugby. Anyone who says otherwise would be wrong.

However we are, and have always been, so much more.

Did you know for example that the first person to introduce the use of a whistle during a game of rugby was a New Zealander? William Atack – In 1884, sick of having to raise his voice during games decided a whistle would be a good idea. The idea stuck and was eventually adopted worldwide.

Or that a New Zealander invented the disposable syringe?

These are only two examples of a people of ingenuity, with a pioneering spirit, a love of travel and books and of course, rugby.

I once heard a missionary who had spent decades living in India say that cricket had done more to break down the caste system of of that country than any other influence. It didn’t matter what the caste of the bowler or batsman might be. What mattered was how well they plied their trade.

Rugby played an important role in helping shape our nation’s identity. We were rugby mad and some may cringe at the thought of a game shaping a nations people, but it has.

As our national game it has brought together people from every socio-economic group, nationality and in the early days of European settlement – every class.

This was important in the emergence of a society that saw itself as egalitarian.

It was an equal playing field. There were no biases; you just had to play good rugby.

This is still evident today. Our teams are made up of a mixture of players from various cultural and career backgrounds.

We cannot deny the impact rugby has had on the New Zealand psyche, but there is so much more.

For about 100 years now people have been asking what are we? who are we? what do we stand for? and where are we going as a nation?

We are more than just the quarter acre pavlova paradise, the home of the buzzy bee, L&P and hokey pokey ice cream. More than the weekend bach, barbeques and boats, and definitely more than just rugby.

We are a new country. Yet the development of our identity has been relatively quick, our ‘character’ and what made us a ‘kiwi’ was evident early on.

Look at the 1905 first All Black tour to England. This group of men still considered themselves to be part of England – the great Empire.

George Dixon, manager of the team, talks in his diary of the players comparing New Zealand to the United Kingdom. The UK did not fair well. The differences were already apparent, even though at the start of the trip they had assumed they were ‘going ‘home referring to the UK.
We are a unique country at the bottom of the world that has absorbed over the last 150 years, predominantly, three different cultures Maori, European and Pacific Islands and were making it one unique culture

The late 19th Century saw a wave of mainly European but also Chinese (gold diggers) migration.

However it should be remembered that new migrants arrived in a country that had a thriving culture already in existence – Maori.

The ability of the new migrants and Maori to get on together helped bring about our egalitarian society.

The 1960’s saw a surge of Polynesian migrants as we became a more industralised country promising a better life for people from small South Pacific nations.

We have embraced aspects of all of these cultures and turned them into ‘kiwi traits’.

We had problems – what country didn’t? – but we had inter-married successfully and created a multi-cultural south pacific nation that people were proud to say they come from.

New Zealanders are staunchly patriotic, especially when overseas, modest, hardworking, adventurous and entrepreneurial. We are quiet achievers.

We love to travel, probably because we are at the bottom of the world.

We love to read as much as we love sports and we read more foreign magazines than any other nation.

We have prided ourselves on our egalitarian society, here Jack could be as good as his master, people earned respect; it was not their birthright because of their place in ‘society’.

Bernard Montgomery – English General in WWII – once complained to the commanding officer of the New Zealand Division, General Freyberg that the NZ troops were disrespectful to the English officers. Freyberg’s response – ‘they are very friendly, if you wave they will wave back.”

We are friendly and welcoming and very laid back. No airs and graces to be found, a very down to earth nation of people.

We have a sense of freedom that many other countries do not.

How many other countries in the world would allow a protest on the front lawn of parliament?

But, we are also our own worst enemies. We suffer from the tall poppy syndrome; we put ourselves down first before somebody else does it for us.

These characteristics can be seen in some of New Zealand’s most famous citizens.
Sir Edmund Hilary summed it up after conquering Mt Everest.

In true kiwi fashion, “We knocked the b*** off”.

He then went on to say, “In some ways I believe I epitomise the average New Zealander: I have modest abilities, I combine these with a good deal of determination, and I rather like to succeed."

We are a country of social reform.

In great periods of our history we have led the world in some of our policies.
Kate Sheppard, one of our most famous citizens, helped New Zealand be the first country to allow women to vote.

We were the first English speaking country to introduce the old age pension in 1898. Although not ideal, it was a start.

Richard Seddon – King Dick – coined New Zealand ‘God’s own country’ and worked to achieve exactly that.

The Government of the 30’s brought about social reform never before seen in the world.

Under Michael Savage fundamental social policies were reborn.

A health system for all, housing for those in need, welfare for the elderly, sick, or unemployed and education to all.

The introduction of the 5-day, 40-hour week helped to drop the unemployment rate drastically.

Peter Fraser carried on where Savage had started and after WWII continued to build a prosperous New Zealand where anything was possible and in the 50’s and 60’s successive National Governments took us as a country to the second highest per capita incomes of any country. During this great period 1935-1970 Labour and National delivered more for the Maori in real economic and social policy than any other country in like circumstances. Sadly the wisdom of these real policies became neglected in the past twenty years and hence the present malaise of New Zealand.

Nothwithstanding this, a lifestyle was created and New Zealanders are about lifestyle.

New Zealand is about lifestyle.

We had built a country unlike any other, with opportunities a plenty – but sadly much of this is in question now.

Our way of life – our lifestyle is being threatened. We are losing sight of what were about and what we want our country to be.
We were a country of new beginnings; people came here to build a better life and they succeeded.
The 80’s saw a shift in policies - economically and socially.

New Zealander’s were starting on their road to economic revolution and political correctness.

Economic policies of successive Governments since the 1980’s have seen a widening divide between the haves and the have nots.

We are losing what is at the core of what makes our country great – opportunity for all in a great egalitarian society.

This is emphasised by the changing face of New Zealand.

With the sale of assets to foreigners and the sale of our education services to fee-paying foreign students we have had a flood of wealthy foreigners who have benefited from this at the expense of the everyday New Zealander.

The open door immigration policy is threatening our lifestyle. It is causing overcrowding in our biggest cities.

We now have housing shortages. People are living below the poverty line.

Children are suffering as are the sick.

And now globalisation has seen many of our younger generation leaving for a better life overseas at the same time we have a skills shortage back home.

The UN Secretary - Kofi Annan has said “To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.”

As a country New Zealand does not know where we are going, or what it is we are doing.

What do successive Governments want for our country when they allow an immigration rate in real terms six times greater than Australias.

At the year ending December 2002 – over 70,000 new immigrants arrived and today close to 20% of New Zealand’s population was born outside of New Zealand

With figures like this of course we are at great risk of losing our identity.

As Austin Mitchell said in Pavalova Paradise revisited, New Zealand is not a country for just the elite but ‘a country for ordinary people who have the benefit of growing up in an extraordinary country.’

We in the mid 80/s were well on the way to establishing a New Zealand identity. All that now is in jeopardy because of a series of a disastrous policy shifts.

There has been no country since the last great war that has reached the first world without a high degree of social cohesiveness of shared ambitions and values. The alarming warning for New Zealand is that whilst others have seen the wisdom of social cohesion we have pursued policies that destroy it. The Treaty of Waitangi industry is a sad example of the service to the very few in Maoridom with their cultural fellow travellers hanging on whilst the mass majority of Maori having been promised Nirvana, not even standing still and now slipping backwards in comparative terms. And almost every incoming ethnic group rather than signing up to the New Zealand way is demanding with taxpayer support the establishment of their culture in this land. These demands the politicians refuse to confront and hence the mindless talk of multi-culturalism as a substitute for an emerging New Zealand culture.

This is not a criticism of other cultures but I do question the right of other cultures to taxpayer funds when we have failed to establish here our own culture and secure its future.

As a demonstration of how weak Maoridom has become in just fifteen years when did you last hear of a Maori leader questioning their population numbers, now over a thousand years old, being surpassed by new immigrant numbers in just seven years.

There is only one place in the world where you will hear New Zealand Maori spoken and that is New Zealand, but yet I can count the countless countries where Cantonese or Mandarin is spoken, or for that matter Punjabi or Hindu.

There is nothing wrong with difference except where it is encouraged by the misuse of taxpayer funds. There is nothing wrong with variety except when it is encouraged by the unreasonable expenditure of taxpayer funds. Great economy’s such as Singapore, Ireland and Taiwan understand that. So why don’t we!. Or is that in all the “visions” modern politicians have had we overlooked that we had lived through times of great vision when to deliver the greatest degree of economic and social progress for all was the principal objective – an objective which was achieved beyond any international comparison.

In short, New Zealand does not need a new vision for the 21st century – but it is desperately in need of understanding its past, comprehending what made it great once, and then reshaping, and remoulding the fundamental principles which underpinned those societies so they are given a modern context for the century in which we now live.

If there is one lesson to be learnt from the Iraq war it is that the globalists across all continents are not going to be left to do as and when they please. Great nations understand nationhood and the primary objective of service to ones people first and that is why I am proud to lead a party called New Zealand First.

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