“Intermarriage with non-Maori contributed to the rapid growth of the Maori population in the post-war period. As at 2003, almost one-quarter of Maori children were born to non-Maori mothers, (Statistics New Zealand 2005).”
In 2013 fewer than half of Māori men had a Māori partner:
The corresponding figure for Māori females is 52 percent.
“There has been a small but important decline in the proportion of partnered Māori who have a Māori partner. In 2001, 53% of partnered Māori men had a Māori partner. In 2013 this declined to 48%. For Māori women the decline was from 52% to 47%.”
These realities pose vital questions:
1/ Is there a pervasive appetite for separatism among people who have long been attracted to those outside their own race and culture?
2/ With institutions and services increasingly split along racial lines, where will individuals of mixed ethnicity fall? This is particularly pertinent in the case of Oranga Tamariki which is pursuing a policy of keeping ‘Maori’ children with ‘Maori’ relatives as a priority. When all aspects of the child’s well-being are considered, this may be the best course of action; equally, it might not.
John Tamihere famously said New Zealand’s future, “… is being decided in our bedrooms, not our boardrooms.” He also identifies as Māori more strongly than any other ethnicity, as is his right.
Since making that proclamation as Māori Affairs Minister in 2004, Tamihere has become a strong advocate for separate systems. As Māori Party president he appears more radical in his views than when a Labour MP.
Is he now in danger of forcing those of mixed ethnicity – even children – to make difficult, possibly unbearable decisions to meet the demands for tino rangitiratanga – ‘by Māori, for Māori?’
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic the phrase ‘Let no man put asunder’ might be a reminder to those who want to divide New Zealand that ultimately, individuals make their own life choices, and those choices are sacrosanct.