The Reality of Maori Privilege


At the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, William Hobson, later appointed New Zealand’s first Governor, was recorded to greet each chief saying, “He iwi tahi tatou” – We are one people. When it comes to race relations in New Zealand, however, we appear to be anything but. The anti-separatist campaign, The Hobson’s Pledge, state their goal is to “arrest a decline into irreversible separatism” through the abolition of race based structures, therefore creating this “one” New Zealand Hobson was referring to (Hobson’s Pledge). The issue that arises is which one?

Currently, there is a large gap between Maori and non-Maori across the board with Maori being over represented in areas such as unemployment and within the prison system while being under represented within the health system. The unemployment rate for Maori in 2016 was twice the average rate for Total All Ethnic Groups (MBIE). Maori currently represent 50% of the prison population (Department of Corrections) and consistently rate higher than non-Maori in cases of low health (Ministry of Health).

Attempts have been made to narrow this gap yet activists are treated with backlash, such as in the case of Andrew Judd, previous New Plymouth Mayor. In an interview with John Campbell of Radio NZ Checkpoint, Judd describes the level of abuse he received after campaigning for better Maori representation in the Taranaki district, quoting statements such as, “Maori don’t need special treatment they just need to be more like us” as well as being called “idiot”, “bigot”, and “separatist” (RNZ). It seems that despite these statistics the notion of Maori privilege pervades. Judd proposes that part of the issue lies in ignorance and arrogance and that the resolve lies in having “an honest conversation” regarding race relations in New Zealand.


Cited Sources:

“Prison facts and statistics – December 2016.” Department of Corrections.

“Māori in the Labour Market.” Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

“Ngā mana hauora tūtohu: Health status indicators.” Ministry of Health.

“Our Plan”. Hobson’s Pledge,

RNZ. “Does NZ have a problem with anti-Maori racism?: RNZ Checkpoint.” YouTube, RNZ, May 9 2016,


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