Identifying as New Zealander or Pākehā

I am a part of a growing trend to identify as a New Zealander and/or Pākehā. If ethnicity questions don’t include either option I put myself as ‘other’ and write New Zealander if there is a box for nominated ethnicity.

The 2018 census had a category of ‘European’, which I strongly object to for myself, I have no affinity with Europe. I put myself down as ‘other’, but many herd identified as from the other side of the world.

Totals from the 2018 census:

  • European 70.2% (74% in 2013)
  • Māori 16.5% (up from 14.9%)
  • Asian 15.1% (up from 11.8%)
  • Pacific peoples 8.1% (up from 7.4%)
  • Middle Eastern/Latin American/African 1.5% (up from 1.2%)
  • Other 1.2% (down from 1.7%)

So I was part of a very small minority.

But in a recent  Stuff-Massey survey of over 70,000 people the numbers were quite different.

  • NZ European 49.73%
  • New Zealander 32.88%
  • Pākehā 11.86%
  • Asian 2.43%
  • Māori 2.29%
  • Pacifika 0,81%

While the sample was large it was self selected so may not represent a cross section of New Zealand, but this is indicative of a trend for many people to identify as a New Zealander, Pākehā (or probably Kiwi if that was an option).

Stuff – Identity Politics and Hyphenated Identities: What do New Zealanders really want for our political future?

The 2020 Stuff-Massey survey is not representative. It under-represents people of colour, and over-represents whites, and older people.

I’m not sure how they worked that out. It’s possible that many ‘people of colour’ identify primarily as a New Zealander.

So who are the “New Zealanders”, who chose not to qualify their nationality with ethnicity? They are demographically diverse, being only slightly older, more male, more often from the South Island, and less affluent than the overall sample. But the real meaning of this category label is in its association with political attitudes.

Self-identified New Zealanders tended to be National Party supporters, who advocated taking a cautious and sceptical stance towards climate change, while Pākehā were Labour supporters in favour of taking urgent action in response to climate change. NZ Europeans were in between, with 39 per cent for National and 43 per cent for Labour, and they were slightly more in favour of urgent action on climate change (39 per cent) compared to being cautious and sceptical (36 per cent).

Overall, there may be just as much, if not more diversity in the political opinions of different groups of white people in NZ compared to between ethnic groups. For in their attitude profiles, Pasifika resembled Pākehā, Māori looked like Pākehā or NZ Europeans, while Asians were similar to NZ Europeans or New Zealanders, depending on the issue.

That suggests a lot more diversity in opinions here than a few generalised ethnic boxes.

I think that in the census and on official forms we should be able to identify as being a New Zealander. ‘European’ is an out of date classification that could be seen by some as colonialist – I have put that in here as I see it as the best chance of getting a foreign box dropped from ethnicity questions.

Leave a comment


  1. John J Harrison

     /  10th August 2020

    Pete, correct, we are all New Zealanders.
    There are no Maori , there are only part – Maori.
    It is not for a vociferous, militant minority to class people as Pakeha.
    That is grossly offensive on a number of levels.
    Unfortunately, many part – Maori wish to enforce a type of apartheid system within our once united country.
    With the assistance of both Labour and the Greens they are succeeding.
    Zimbabwe here we come !

    • Corky

       /  10th August 2020

      You are quite RIGHT, your time in council would have taught you. The New Zealander box will never be ticked by Maori. Maori find being classified as New Zealanders, culturally offensive.

    • Blazer

       /  10th August 2020

      Get a grip John.

      Of course there are Maori…just as there are Irish…etc…

      Happy to drop you at the airport if you’re off to…Zimbabwe.

    • John J Citizen you claim it is grossly offensive to classify people as Pākehā, and in the same breath classify Māori as part-Māori.

      Classifying race or ethnicity by using fractions – half-, part-, etc. – is a racist strategy for justifying social, political, and economic inequality. All you are doing is structurally enshrining the dominant (white) group’s belief about who belongs where, which groups deserve what, and ultimately who gets what.

      Your hypocrisy is as astounding as your grossly offensive labelling.

  2. artcroft

     /  10th August 2020

    My cultural ethnicity is European – I speak a European language, and belong to a group which follows European traditions in political organisation and religion. But I refer to myself as a Kiwi.

  3. Griff.

     /  10th August 2020

    I refuse to be identified by the minority term pakeha.
    I am formerly a new zealander colloquially a kiwi.
    Enough New Zealanders share my view that they changed the categories in the census.

    I find pakeha mildly offensive
    It is for a bone carving wearing fringe if that is how they view themselves inflicting it on the rest of us is not.

  4. Kimbo

     /  10th August 2020

    Personally don’t have a problem with Pakeha – it denotes non-Maori (usually European race) people living in New Zealand…which describes my ethnicity, culture, nationality and unique location.

    If ideologues on either end of the identity politics/culture wars debate are “offended” or have a problem, or want to mischaracterise my politics or views on life, don’t really care. Just as I don’t care is my Pacific Island friends call me a Palagi.

    And I don’t see why any attempt by Maori to retain cultural identity and resist assimilation automatically means another Ihumatao or Kingitanga rebellion. Seems some people’s culture is very not very robust if they can’t handle some diversity. It if you don’t like the self-descriptor “Pakeha”, fair enough…

    • Griff.

       /  10th August 2020

      If ideologues on either end of the identity politics/culture wars debate are “offended” or have a problem,

      I have no issues with Maori calling me Pakeha or islanders calling me Palagi or thai calling me ฮวน… whatever.
      I do have an issue when the only option on a government form is the Maori word Pakeha for New Zealander or when it is used in a general context
      The majority of us do not identify with that name hence it is not a valid or acceptable term to use on a government form or when addressing New Zealanders outside of a Maori context.

      In 2013, the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study carried out by the University of Auckland found no evidence that the word was widely considered to be derogatory; however, only 12 per cent of New Zealanders of European descent chose to be identified by the term, with the remainder preferring “New Zealander” (53 per cent), “New Zealand European” (25 per cent) or “Kiwi” (17 per cent).[8][9]

      What would happen if New Zealanders started using hori on forms or used it on blogs in the press ect?
      Very same thing .

  5. Gerrit

     /  10th August 2020

    I tick the Maori racial identifier on all forms just for the heck of it. My tribe is Ngati Tauiwi,

    Ties poeple up in knots trying to argue that I’m not Maori. I just cite the late Ranginui Walkes’s route; that to be Maori, one just has to feel like Maori.

    Today I feel like a Maori so that is what I am.

    In fact what is to stop anyone starting a new Tribe, IWI or Hapu?

    • Kimbo

       /  10th August 2020

      Have been trying to get recognition of my status as Ngati Scottish and Ngati Irish. 😳😂

    • Nothing like a little fun, Gerrit. Bureaucrats don’t like fun. The world is black and white to them.

      There is nothing to stop anyone starting a new iwi or tribe. However , it would end in bloodshed. Every part of NZ belongs to some tribe or hapu. Some areas are still disputed.

      Anyone starting a new tribe would have to have a founding wharenui…and that would never be built.

      There are two New Zealands. The Maori one is governed by iwi boundaries and kawa. And while any Maori is free to live or travel wherever they want, when it comes to formal Maori business or even social events, local kawa must be respected. My uncle, one of our local college Maori tutors, received a bollocking from elders in Opotiki for disrespecting local kawa at the porwhiri for our visiting college 1st 15. A usually fastidious man, he had made an error and was really dealt to. In such a situation all he could do was put his head down then apologise. This was in the 70’s…and the old ways were still strong.

      Nothing in Maoridom is straight forward.

      • Gerrit

         /  10th August 2020

        Agree but many Maori don’t belong to any tribe (or don’t know which they belong too). Locally we have the Manukau Urban Maori Authority (MUMA) to represent them, so tribalism may not be as important as it once was. I believe the Waiparera Trust out west does the same job.

        Tribal boundaries are in dispute even today where conquest and slavery by one tribe over another (pre European colonisation) altered perceived boundaries.

        My little 600 sq metre plot becomes my tribes wharenui (big house). Simple.

        • Duker

           /  10th August 2020

          I was the other day able to look over an iwi long running ..since 90s….land dispute. It’s probably impossible to describe but in simple terms they sold most of their land to government in 1860s for a huge sum then , and with the start of the land wars had it confiscated a month later..even the colonial government could screw up. The sale excluded some blocks that were tribal urupa, but the confiscation included them…some years later some urupa blocks were awarded back to named iwi members. The government who owned the land surrounding the urupa treated it as its own which wasn’t such a big deal until the land became much more useful…the original grantees were dead , so a compulsory purchase was in order with the real reasons hidden behind the bland words state forests.
          That is the simple part as a 3rd party who had found a new use for the land comes into the picture.

    • Sunny

       /  10th August 2020

      What a stupid survey. And you have to identify as only one ethnicity? If you have a Maori dad and White NZ Mother, then what you just pick one? We often see important media or political people identifying as Maori when they are both.

      And as for being a European…. welll does that make me eligible for a European passport and other benefits.. Because currently I only have a NZ passport. And I pay taxes only in NZ. And I reside only in NZ and I was born in NZ as did generations of my ancestors.

      And if you are of British, Scottish or Irish, ancestory, is that European as they are not strictly on the European continent.

      Anyways the whole increasing focus on identity politics is bonkers and damaging and it keeps everyone stuck in the victim, saviour, persecutor triangle.

      • alloytoo

         /  10th August 2020

        “Anyways the whole increasing focus on identity politics is bonkers and damaging and it keeps everyone stuck in the victim, saviour, persecutor triangle.”

        persecutor AKA scapegoat.

        funny how the first two need each other and the scapegoat, but the scapegoat doesn’t need them.

        For the record I think the only person with a legitimate interest in my genetics is my doctor.

      • Jack

         /  10th August 2020

        Amen to not needing those sorts of victims, nor that model of saving grace Sonshine. Here’s to hoping for happy belonging for all Kiwis.
        But, Alloytoo – the scapegoat is both the victim and the saviour yet the scapegoat does not need either, except where the scapegoat desires to be loved in return for being weak enough to be victimised yet strong enough to be the saviour. Therefore, the scapegoat is both the victim and the saviour and is needful of identity, but that’s repetition.
        Let’s add confusion to the mix – Jacinda the saviour? How many Kiwis truly feel this way? We’ll find out in a few weeks time.
        Suicide and mental illness are a scourge on our emerging Kiwi culture. At this point us Kiwis could honestly call ourselves a persecuted ethnicity.

        • You must know that scapegoat is used in the sense of the person or thing that’s blamed, not in its original sense which we all know. It’s become an expression for one made to bear the blame of others, rightly or wrongly; X has been made the scapegoat for the failings of (whatever)

        • Jack

           /  10th August 2020

          Sorry pus pus. What is the original sense which we all know? I’m a bit thick. Especially when you fuzz the issue discussed by suggesting that sometimes it’s “right” (fair, correct, true etc) for one to be “made” (forced, coerced etc) to bear the blame for others. Sounds suicidal material for any of your suggested scapegoats. Get yourself purring again if you can.
          I carry my cross Kitty. You can’t win this one.

  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  10th August 2020

    The trouble with Pakeha is that it doesn’t differentiate those born and bred multi-generational here and those just arrived. New Zealander is better at grounding us.

    • Duker

       /  10th August 2020

      Farrar does a skewing … Of the kiwi iwi data on the subject of Maori seats where Stuff …well stuffs it up and can’t add numbers .Probably the journos doesn’t know how to add %.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  10th August 2020

        Quite extraordinarily white guilt wokeness in the Pakeha self-identifiers.

        • Jack

           /  10th August 2020

          In many of the genuine, guilt precedes a waking up to the truth (ie we all are made acceptable if we wish.) The wokeness is a part of the journey for many empathetic souls. It’s not over yet Alan. It will probably get worse before it gets better. I hope not.

    • Pickled Possum

       /  11th August 2020

      Thats quite right Al
      Pakeha is a word we use for stranger and I’m a NZ’er just like you.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  11th August 2020

        I like being called a Kiwi, Possum. Kiwis and Aussies are good mates and Kiwis can be any colour.


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