Is emphasis on Maori culture and language unwarranted?

Maori culture and language is understandably important for some Maori, and for some non-Maori. But what about the rest of us?

This question has been raised on Reddit by Cobaltgrass: All this emphasis on Maori culture and language is unwarranted. They should be treated the same as everyone else, and otherwise it is racist. Just politicians too pussy to potentially risk votes from Maori.

We can still respect their language and culture without this bombardment of attention to Maori, By doing this, perhaps the government is going over the limit to what is necessary to the detriment to others. I am sure you would value the different cultures of other groups, even with all of them getting the same treatment. We can respect everyone by giving everyone equal amounts of care, help, and attention. I do not believe that this is happening now.

All this emphasis in the recent political cycle on how each party can help Maori and Pacific people in specific, with Pakeha, Asians and other minorities being lumped together as the general population just made me ask this question.


You could make all sorts if arguments around how the Maori people were here first, and how they have been treated pretty badly in the past but I won’t. Instead I’ll offer a different perspective.

What harm does it do to you? Is it really any skin off your back that they pronounce Maori place names correctly on the TV? Does it really matter that the census is available in Maori? Do the multilingual signs hurt anybody? Is having Maori TV really a problem?

If by being more inclusive and accepting of Maori language and culture we can help to improve the outcomes of a significant minority at negligible cost to everybody else then I’m all for it.

Besides, it’s pretty cool to have something unique which isn’t just copied from the UK or the USA.

It is part of the Aotearoa New Zealand identity that makes us unique.


Believe me, those are the least of my concerns. I’ll name the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

  1. Easier entry to university if Maori or Pacific
  2. Huge focus on specifically NCEA Maori pass rates in school, leading to less attention to things like the lack of STEM, or the average and top students. Seriously, this is one of the most talked about goal in the UOW Masters degree in teaching (friend recently did it)
  3. Using a portion of the lotto profits to give grants to people who will specifically help Maori or Pacifica.

Salt Pile:

  1. This doesn’t affect you in any way. The reason the easier access was granted was because it was harder for those students to get in because of their circumstances (which are from history), leading to an unfair disadvantage. If you abolished that rule, there’d be less diversity but you personally would not find it any easier to get into uni than you do now.
  2. If a group is disadvantaged for historical reasons and has a lower education pass rate, then ignoring that just perpetuates a cycle of underprivilege. Any teacher worth their salt would want to help to break that cycle. Sure it leads to less attention to the average and top students, but they need it less. That’s like complaining because your little brother broke his arm so your mother is giving him attention by taking him to the doctor.
    Allowing the vulnerable to get a hand up is a central part of being a decent human being. Again, it doesn’t really affect you personally any more than any other resource allocation choice affects you – don’t be so sure that people would give all their money and time to you if it weren’t for Maori. On the contrary, you should be happy that teachers focus on improving the education of a less educated group because it will make the society you live in stronger in future.
  3. This one was just wrong. Gambling disproportionately affects the poor, urban, and Maori and Pasifika communities. If you look at the stats overall the opposite is happening – money is being sucked out of poor predominantly brown communities and transferred to sports clubs in rich places like Remuera.

I think some Maori culture is overdone – but in the past it was grossly underdone and suppressed.

Perhaps we are just need to find the right balance (for most people).

To do this we need to be prepared to talk about it, and hear arguments from all sides.