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Hon John Tamihere: What is a New Zealander?

Hon John Tamihere Dominion Post column

What is a New Zealander?

What is a New Zealander? This is a question that stumped one political leader recently, causing me to reflect on what it means to be a New Zealander. I realised I didn't have the answer, but I did have lots of answers. You've probably got lots more you could add to the list, or the definition - that's the great thing about nationhood: there is no one prescription; we're writing it as we go.

To me, a New Zealander is:

A person born in New Zealand. A person who came to New Zealand tens of generations ago in an ocean-going waka. A person who came to New Zealand a year ago in a jumbo jet. Someone who came here in a canoe, even though other people told them not to go over the horizon because taniwha would eat them. A person who came here in a sailing ship even though other people told them not to go over the horizon because cannibals would eat them. Someone whose forebears signed the Treaty of Waitangi. Someone whose ancestors were on the other side of the world at the time. Smeone whose ancestors were there, but declined to sign.

A Maori. A Pakeha. A Maori-Pakeha. A Pacific Islander. An Asian. Someone from Britain. An Irishwoman. A Scotsman. Any combination of the aforementioned. Plus a whole bunch of other ethnicities and countries of origin. Tangata whenua. A Kiwi. A sheepshagger.

Someone who feels a lump in their throat when they fly back into New Zealand after travelling overseas. Someone who has never had the wherewithal to afford international air travel, but just knows there is no other place they would rather be. Someone who calls New Zealand home. Someone who wouldn't have any other place to go to if they had to "go back where they came from". Someone who has been away for years earning better money offshore, but knows New Zealand is the place they will come back to raise their kids.

Someone who feels a cultural connection with a stretch of foreshore that does back to their ancestors' arrival in this land. Someone who has surfed this beach every summer since they were a kid. A Rotarian. A Maori "activist". A Labour voter. A National voter. Even an ACT voter. A warrior. Someone who fought for this country in a world war. A conscientious objector. A member of Grey Power. A member of Black Power. Helen Clark. Don Brash. Mickey Savage. Rob Muldoon.

Someone who claims that there is no food that cannot be improved by liberal application of Watties' tomato sauce. Someone who has experienced the indescribable pleasure of rolling jaffas down the aisle in the movies. A Good Keen Man. Man Alone. A hardcase Sheila. An All Back. A Silver Fern. Mark Todd. David Tua. Kiri Te Kanawa. Rachel Hunter. Ed Hillary. Janet Frame. Billy T James. James K Baxter. Hone Tuwhare. Jake the Muss. Possum Bourne. Dave Dobbyn. Colin McCahon. Selwyn Toogood. Prince Tui Teka.

A schoolkid who wears a bone carving. Their classmate who wears a cross. Another classmate wearing a headscarf. Someone with a tan mark on their feet from wearing jandals. Someone with the hair rubbed off the back of their legs by their gumboots. Someone who wears Zambesi and Karen Walker. Someone who wears Ugg boots. Someone who drinks Tui. Someone who drinks Martinborough pinot noir.

Someone who thinks of Christmas and immediately thinks of pohutukawa trees, hot summers and Christmas dinner off the barbecue. Someone who feels a lump in their throat when they watch that grainy old footage of Jack Lovelock. Someone who thinks of David, not James T, when you say "Captain Kirk". Someone who knows that Pharlap was a New Zealand horse. And that pavlova is a New Zealand dessert. Someone who knew that Keisha Castle Hughes and Peter Jackson were the biggest stars to ever hit Hollywood.

Someone who sings Pokarekare ana, pissed at 3am in a London pub. A member of a school kapa haka group in West Auckland. A kid who goes to Christ's College. A kid who goes to a kura kaupapa in South Auckland. A baby. A grandmother. A chief executive. A solo mum. A millionaire. A beneficiary. My mother and father. Your Mum and Dad. My children. Your children. Their children's children. You. Me.

Someone who thinks everyone deserves a fair go. Someone who will give anything a go. Someone who doesn't have much truck with airs and graces and social status. Someone who likes to have a bit of a whinge, but at the end of the day knows that being a Kiwi is the best thing in the world.


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