Of course there is racism in New Zealand

Taika Waititi has stirred things up by saying that while New Zealand is “the best place on the planet” it is also “racist as fuck”. I agree with him on both counts. I haven’t had to experience the sort of racism he describes, but have had to deal with prejudices.

This came from an interview with English magazine ‘Dazed and Confused: Unknown Mortal Orchestra & Taika Waititi on New Zealand culture – some extracts:

Taika Waititi: It was scary, man, it was scary. We also used to think Bob Marley and Michael Jackson were Maori. I thought that Bob Marley was from Ruatoria and I heard that Michael Jackson was a local!

Taika Waititi: Yeah, and New Zealanders are, like, experts in cynicism. We’re good observers, because we come from a place where basically nothing happens. There’s definitely a mentality of ‘I’m stuck here and I’m not going to get out’ that informs the stuff we make, there’s kind of a cool darkness to it.

Taika Waititi: We have a very strong metre around being too earnest or cheesy because we all grew up the same in New Zealand and you want to make sure your friends aren’t gonna mock you for doing stuff! (laughs) It’s like, ‘There’s got to be a cool way of saying something – I’m not going to scream out, “I love you!”’ You’ve got to do it in a cool, funny, sarcastic way. It’s the same with our art and cinema – we can afford to be bold and do outlandish shit because we all know what the alternative is, which is basically being in New Zealand.

Ruban, I read an interview where you said that growing up half-Polynesian in New Zealand was to be the kid a shop owner will follow around’. Does this chime with your own experiences, Taika?

Taika Waititi: Exactly the same. Growing up it was very normal to go into a store and they would say, ‘What do you want?’ And you’d be like, (muttering) ‘I’m just looking at chips, man.’ I remember getting a job at a dairy and they would never give me a job at the till, I was always at the back washing vegetables. And then one day one of the owners asked me if I sniffed glue – like, ‘Are you a glue-sniffer?’ (Ruban laughs) In my head I was like, ‘Motherfucker, you grew up with my mum!’ And I knew for sure that he didn’t ask other kids in the store if they were glue-sniffers.

I think I’ve got quite an idealised vision of New Zealand as like Australia without the racism and the blokeish sense of humour…

Taika Waititi: Nah, it’s racist as fuck. I mean, I think New Zealand is the best place on the planet, but it’s a racist place. People just flat-out refuse to pronounce Maori names properly. There’s still profiling when it comes to Polynesians. It’s not even a colour thing – like, ‘Oh, there’s a black person.’ It’s, ‘If you’re Poly then you’re getting profiled.’

Ruban Nielson: I didn’t even realise how light my skin was until I came (to the US). It was one of the things I liked when I moved here; it’s like nobody knows what you are so they give you the benefit of the doubt. And then I go back to New Zealand as a person who’s older and somewhat accomplished in their field and I still get treated worse! It’s like people want to remind you – ‘Yeah, but you’re still Polynesian, so…’

Taika Waititi: Totally. People in Auckland are very patronising. They’re like, ‘Oh, you’ve done so well, haven’t you? For how you grew up. For one of your people.’ (Ruban laughs)

Ruban Nielson: I appreciate being Polynesian more than I did when I was there. When I go back now, I find myself being more aggressive when I’m pronouncing Maori names around people who refuse to do it. (laughs)

Taika Waititi: Yeah. Because because they don’t mispronounce French words, do they? They can say fucking ‘Camembert’ properly.

I think he’s wrong about pronounciation – people tend to pronounce names as they have learned them, and rarely deliberately mispronounce.

And he’s wrong about mispronouncing French words, that’s very common – a guarantee many of us won’t be very good on ‘Camembert’  and many other foreign words.

And English is ‘mispronounced’ more than any other language.

But racism is rife in New Zealand – racism against Maori, against Polynesians, against Chinese, against Indians, against Irish, against Arabs, against English, against anyone who is racially different. It’s just what some people do.

It is a particular problem when the Government and the Police have racist policies and practices.

Stuff: Taika Waititi’s right, New Zealand really is a racist place

“The only people I meet who are racist are Māoris,” one woman said after learning Taika Waititi had again said New Zealand is a racist place.

Did she see the irony in her own sentence?

There will never be no racism, but there is a lot of room for improvement in New Zealand.


‘Suffering in silence’ from racism

The Human Rights Commission today launched a new campaign against racial intolerance, fronted by actor and director Taika Waititi.

RNZ:  New Zealanders ‘suffering in silence’ from racism

Racial intolerance is getting worse in New Zealand but most of those targeted suffer in silence, Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy says.

She said Waititi, as New Zealander of the Year, was an obvious choice to front the ‘Give Nothing To Racism’ campaign – and she contacted him while he was away working in the United States.

“I sent him a letter, and some Pineapple Lumps, to Los Angeles,” she said. “He took a day off working on Thor and did this.”

Dame Susan said one in three formal complaints to the Human Rights Commission was about racial discrimination, but the overwhelming majority of people never complained when they were humiliated or abused.

“I’m seeing and hearing every day from people in the community that are talking about the racial attacks on them,” she told Morning Report.

When there was an event such as a terrorist attack overseas, Muslim people, particularly women and children, were targeted, she said.

“Women who are visually diverse in New Zealand who wear a hijab talk all the time about being racially abused at bus stops and schools and in their communities.

“And what is sad about that is nobody comes to their defence.”

No one group was being targeted in New Zealand, and racist abuse was not limited to recent immigrants.

“Fourth-generation New Zealanders are still telling me that they’re the butt of racist jokes or being told to go home,” she said

There was a rise in racial hatred overseas and in New Zealand.

“I believe that things are getting worse and the reality is most people don’t complain about this.”

Dame Susan said everyone had a responsibility to speak up against racism, and urged politicians to refrain from pulling the race card in the lead-up to the election.

Winston peters reacted negatively to this.

This is the second stage of the commission’s anti-racism campaign. Last September it launched the ‘That’s Us’ campaign with a website that enabled people to share their personal stories of racism.


Favourite movies

After saying that Hunt for the Wilderpeople is probably the best New Zealand movie I’ve seen and one of the best movies I’ve seen – see Wilderblog – Clemgeopin asked “can you name about 5 of the very good movies that you have seen in your life please”.

I’ve had to give that a bit of thought. here are the movies that came to mind.

The first movie that I think impressed me significantly was Easy Rider, controversial, had a number of messages and had some great music.

Two other movies with a strong musical component that have left a lasting impression were Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair, although I was familiar with the music before the movies came out in both cases. I’ve since watched repeats and will watch both again.

Other movies that I remember liking more than usual were or leaving a lasting impression were A Clockwork Orange, Deliverance, Forrest Gump and Shakespeare in Love.

Gloomy Sunday also left a big impression.

Chicken Run is memorable for me, as a movie it was ok but more for other reasons.

Older New Zealand movies I particularly liked were Smash Palace and Goodbye Pork Pie (I wonder what the remake will be like).

I’m not a fan of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbitt sort of movies, and King Kong was too corny for my liking, but I thought Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures was a top movie.

I thought Whale Rider and Boy were very good, and I also enjoyed the quirky Eagle vs Shark.

Taika Waititi directed both Boy and Eagle vs Shark, but I rate Hunt for the Wilderpeople above them and most other movies.

I don’t know what Wilderpeople will be like for people who aren’t familiar with Crump’s writing but I think there’s enough current content and straight out entertainment to satisfy most people. And it’s just a very well written, well paced, funny and at times emotional movie.

Watch it and judge for yourself.

I’ve just checked the top all time 100 movies on Box Office Mojo and of my picks only Forrest Gump features, at #85. I’ve watched maybe 20 of the others but none have impressed me particularly and certainly not much as those I’ve mentioned above.


I don’t go to the movies very often these days but had heard enough about Hunt for the Wilderpeople being worth watching to go and see for it myself.

It is based on a Barry Crump book that I read long ago, Wild Pork and Watercress – that dates back to the days when we called movies ‘the pictures’ before we got Americanised.

I won’t give much away about the movie, except that I think it’s well worth watching, it’s not just probably the best New Zealand movie I’ve seen, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen.


Anyone that knows Crump’s writing will recognise a lot, but his old wilderness yarns blend seamlessly with contemporary topics.

It’s a very funny modern colaced with nostalgia, and tinged with real sadness at times.

I had wondered how Sam Neil would manage the role of Hec – I had my doubts he could do it – but he was spot on, it was the best I’ve seen him.

And Julian Dennison as the fat kid was a top performance.

Director Taika Waititi is very good at picking and making stars of young unknowns. He also did a masterful job with the screenplay.

I don’t want to give anything away about it, but if you are inclined towards going to see a big screen then I think Hunt for the Wilderpeople is well worth trying.

There’s a trailer and reviews online but I suggest skipping them and just going and watching it.