Last Updated: Thursday, 02 October 2014, 10:43 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - New Zealand

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - New Zealand, 16 July 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a66d9abc.html [accessed 2 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Considerable progress has been made in 2008 in resolving land and resource disputes for New Zealand's Maori people, who make up 15 per cent of the country's population. Additionally, Prime Minister Helen Clark publicly endorsed a national Statement on Race Relations in August. The statement reaffirmed the government's commitment to human rights and equality among the country's racial and ethnic groups, and it set out 10 fundamental rights to guide government policies toward racial and ethnic minorities.

The Waitangi Tribunal continued to hear Maori claims to land and other resources during 2008. In June the government and seven indigenous Maori tribes negotiated a settlement that included a payment of NZ $420 million (US $252 million) and transfer of 435,000 acres of forestland to the tribes. The agreement is the largest single deal to date between the government and these groups.

The deadline for submission of historical claims was 1 September following which new claims could still be filed and existing claims amended. In August, further claims were settled with two additional tribes for NZ $25 million (US $15 million) and NZ $7 million (US $4.2 million), respectively.

Figures for 2008 put Maori unemployment at 7.9 per cent compared with the national average of 3.8 per cent; Maori constituted approximately 50 per cent of the prison population and there is continuing disparity between Maori and non-Maori in terms of educational achievement. Maori are less likely to attend an early childhood education facility before entering primary school, are far less likely to leave school with upper secondary school qualifications, and are also less likely to possess formal or tertiary level qualifications than other New Zealanders. In an attempt to combat these inequalities the government has adopted an educational strategy for 2008-12 emphasizing the notion of 'succeeding as Maori', including increasing Maori children's participation in early childhood education; strengthening their literacy and numeracy; ensuring young Maori are effectively engaged in secondary school and enabling Maoris to access Maori-language education options. A companion document to the school curriculum has been written in the Maori language and from an indigenous perspective.

Approximately 24 per cent of the Maori population can speak Maori, of which 10 per cent use their Maori language skills on a regular basis. In his August 2008 report the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people reported a number of positive developments in the use of Maori language.

Although Maori is an official language of New Zealand, it is not used in all state institutions. Court proceedings continue to be in English – at most an accused may get an interpreter, but not be heard by a judge who understands Maori – and most government departments have limited bilingual ability.

In the November 2008 general election the Maori Party maintained its four seats out of seven allocated to the indigenous people in the 120-seat parliament, and also won Te Tai Tonga from the Labour Party.

Pacific Islanders, who make up 7 per cent of the population, also experienced societal discrimination in 2008 according to reports. The Ministries of Justice and Pacific Island Affairs have a programme to identify gaps in delivery of government services to Pacific Islanders.

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