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Jim Anderton Op-ed: Nationhood and Ngati Kiwi

Nationhood and Ngati Kiwi
Progressive Leader Jim Anderton
February 2004

You can't yell 'fire' in a packed theatre and when panic causes serious casualties claim that you didn't intend to cause such damage.

Don Brash, backed by Gerry Brownlee and other politicians of the centre right have chosen to go down such a path. I believe they are doing New Zealand a great disservice. During the recent floods Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders worked hard to help each other without once thinking of, or concentrating on, their differences.

New Zealand is a diverse community and that diversity gives our nation strength. It is when we celebrate diversity instead of fearing it, that the real New Zealand will fulfil its potential. The mixture of Maori and other cultures, which make up the distinct and unique face of New Zealand, brings opportunity, colour and vitality to our nation.

When I think of New Zealand culture the metaphor that comes to mind is of a rope made out of the strands of our communities, binding us together, not separating us. That mixture of communities is what makes us different ? when young kiwis go abroad, what is it that they offer to the world which is culturally different?

Australians abroad sing Waltzing Matilda - and good on them.

Kiwis often do the haka or sing Maori songs. When one of my staff went to Fiji on holiday she was asked where she was from. When she said she was a New Zealander the Fijians sang Po Kare Kare Ana to her. Even other cultures recognise the place of Maori in the culture of a European New Zealander.

In London or New York, kiwis know that they have a shared identity which is in part Pacific, part Maori and in part it is European. That blend makes us unique. And I believe that blend relates back to the Treaty of Waitangi. I see the Treaty as being about OUR identity as New Zealanders and how we live together.

The value of the Treaty is its rejection of division, of conflict and of intolerance. Very few Kiwis today would reject the notion that there have been breaches of the Treaty's promises, and that those need to be acknowledged and dealt with ? as soon as possible.

But we cannot face the future with confidence and a sense of security about ourselves as New Zealanders based on the suggestion that all our history has been of injustice. We cannot feel or be victims forever. We need to acknowledge, fix, and move on ? together.

I think we are in the process of creating a new Pacific people. We are, I believe, becoming a new tribe ? I think of us as Ngati KIWI.

In a hundred years or so I believe that people will look back on this period and say: "That was when New Zealand really forged its distinctiveness, in language, culture, song, dance and film, when New Zealanders finally began to truly recognise their extraordinary creativeness in business, their ability to solve problems, their capacity to work well with people from anywhere."

This is the time for us to really celebrate our uniqueness.

Our future will not be a future where Maori are expected to blend into some sort of amorphous grey mixture but where we all share and take pride in what makes us different, what makes us, ngati kiwi.

That identity ? ngati kiwi ? will be the rope made from the strands, which bind us all into a distinctive and unique nation. Each strand, each community must be strong because our social and economic prosperity depends on unleashing the talent and creativity in all our communities.

New Zealand will not reach its full economic potential unless Maori and Pacific peoples achieve a high level of economic success. That is why economic development programmes are established in all communities, especially those most in need.

In my economic development portfolio, our focus is to build on our uniqueness and turn it into jobs, incomes and opportunities.

We set up a design strategy that will take New Zealand design to the world. We have a music industry export group, to take the sound of New Zealand to the world. We have helped the film industry make movies here and take our stories to the world. We need to celebrate our cultural expression, in design, in music and in film.

I have high ambitions for New Zealand culture as an expression of our shared identity. Our talents, our lifestyle and our stories are good enough to not only survive ? but to flourish.

I believe we are building a country where all citizens enjoy freedom and opportunity, irrespective of income or title, religious or tribal affiliation. A country where a child from a poor family has the same freedoms and opportunities as a child whose parents are endowed with every advantage.

A country where thousands of native species, birds and plants, flourish in pristine forests and harbours and where anyone is free to walk in national parks, and alongside the oceans and see the land as it has always been.

A country where races freely mingle in harmony, where diversity is strength, newcomers are welcomed and our heritage is respected.

That is a country where talent and creativity will be free to flourish and success is celebrated.

This is the New Zealand we can aspire to be.

It is a future within our reach, but all seven parties in Parliament must deliver policies that build on our strengths together.

We should celebrate. We are, after all, a new people, built of our past, growing together into our future as Ngati Kiwi.

ENDS

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