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Assessment for Maori in New Zealand

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Maori in New Zealand, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 22 February 2018]
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.
New Zealand Facts
Area:    270,534 sq. km.
Capital:    Wellington
Total Population:    3,625,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

While the threats of extremist groups such as the Government of Aotearoa should be taken seriously, it seems unlikely that the Maori will begin or sustain a campaign of militant activity.

Though the Maori have few of the risk factors generally associated with continued or further protest, such as government repression, political or cultural restrictions, and the opportunities associated with regime instability, they do have support from kindred groups abroad. More importantly there has been a growing trend worldwide to address the needs and rights of aboriginal groups, seen most recently at the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia, New Zealand's closest neighbor. The Maori may use this swell of support to increase public attention to their social and economic disadvantages. Statistics show that Maori generally do not live as long, have lower incomes, live in less adequate housing, are not as well educated, and suffer poorer health than non-Maori. The 1991 census showed almost a quarter of Maori were unemployed, 75% of males and 85% of females earned less than $20,000 a year and more than 60% of Maori older than 15 had no educational qualifications. Fewer than half owned their own homes and more than three quarters were living in over-crowded accommodation. Despite public statements by politicians about the need to address these problems, there seems to be little material improvement in their situation. These issues, along with the settlement of land claims and a new Maori interpretation of the history of New Zealand, are all unresolved and therefore continued protests are likely.

Analytic Summary

The Maori have inhabited New Zealand (particularly the North Island) for more than 1000 years (TRADITN = 1). Today, the Maori are mainly found in the urban centers (GROUPCON = 1). Compared to the European settlers, the Maori have a unique language (LANG = 1), history (CUSTOM = 1), and are physically different (RACE = 2). However over generations there have been considerable intermixing between the dominant group and the Maori, leading to most Maori becoming Christian (BELIEF = 1). Despite their obvious differences from the dominant group, the Maori have a relatively weak sense of collective identity (COHESX9 = 4).

The Maori face demographic stress (DEMSTR03 = 2), particularly higher birth rates compared to the European New Zealanders, and they have suffered economically due to historical neglect, although there have been attempts recently to correct these past wrongs (ECODIS03 = 2). They do not face restrictions on cultural practices. The Maori are not subject to political discrimination nor do they face government repression of any overt kind. Since the 1950s there has been a Maori political revival and there are currently numerous organizations representing their interests. In a symbolic gesture of appeasement, a Maori was appointed as Governor-General in 1985 (POLDIS03 = 1).

The organizations are varied and include the political party The Maori Pacific Party, the Maori Congress, the Maori Council, the Maori Mana Motuhake, the Treaty Tribal Coalition, and a new organization that styles itself the Government of Aotearoa. The latter has called for more militant strategies in dealing with the New Zealand government, although they have yet to use strategies of rebellion.

The Maori have a variety of grievances with the New Zealand government. At the extreme end are calls for an independent Maori state. More widely shared demands include greater participation at the state level, more public funds, and the promotion of the Maori language and way of life. The essential concern however is the protection of Maori lands and the enforcement of land treaties.

The Maori in the past have used conventional means to pursue their goals, preferring to negotiate with the government and working within the system rather than protest against it. This changed in the 1970s when substantial demonstrations began (PROT75X = 4). Now the Maori use both political persuasion and acts of protest to convey their message (PROT00-03 = 3). As mentioned above the Maori have yet to become involved in militant activity, although the Treaty Tribal Coalition (Government of Aotearoa) has threatened to do so. The Maori have not been involved in intercommunal conflict in recent years (COMCON00-03 = 0).

The Maori have enjoyed the support of other indigenous groups from around the world, particularly in North America, some of whom have provided financial assistance for Maori legal actions.


Minorities at Risk Phase I Report

Lexis/Nexis: All News Files, 1990-2003.

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