Identity and Neo-Liberalism for Aoteraoa New Zealand

Modified: 18th May 2020
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In this reflection I will look at two main readings Evan Poata-Smith’s Ka Tika a Muri, Ka Tika a Mua? Māori Protest Politics and the Waitangi Settlement Process.  And Ip and Pang’s New Zealand Chinese Identity: Sojourners, Model Minority and Multiple Identities. These articles both consider however concepts such as Understanding Identity and Neo-librism relate to Aoteraoa New Zealand in a sociological context. I will be discussing what the Authors main arguments are, and how their ideas link to the central themes and ideas introduced in the course. Finally I will be looking at commonalities between the articles,
look elsewhere for supporting ideas and express my personal views.

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The author’s key ideas in ‘Ka Tika A Muri, Ka Tika A Mua?’ are the social and economic divisions in Maoridom. This has come about with the introduction of neo liberalist ideas and policesin New Zealand society. This is shown by the author saying the Maori who represent Tribe in the treaty settlement process are benefiting directly from neo liberal pro-business policy. (Te Ahu Poata-Smith, 2004, p. 63-64). The Treaty of Waitangi Settlements establishment the tribe as a corporate business, which has control of the capital received through the treaty settlement process. The Maori in representative positions in the tribal corporation are highly educated successful Maori who are equipped to use neo liberal ideas to make a profit. They are disconnected from the average working class Maori they are representing.

The same Neo liberal policies that help the tribal corporates make a profit are anti-working class and are widening the social and economic inequalities. This is exemplified by “the dismantling of the welfare state, the cuts to benefit levels and the introduction of market rent for state housing in the 1990s brought increased poverty for many new Zealanders”(as cited in Te Ahu Poata-Smith, 2004 ).  Especially New Zealand Maori who have a high percentage of people requiring welfare and housing.

Neoliberalism has affected the NZ fisheries in terms of the quota management system. This creates the ability to buy and sell “by creating harvest (property) rights to fish” (Alessi, 2012) this allowed Māori customary access to fish under the Treaty of Waitangi.  However Maori corporate entities are also of a Capitalist mind set and are in turn seeing the benefits of on selling the fishing rights to other companies. What was sold as a chance to increase the job opportunities for working class Māori has been overtaken by their capitalist tribal leaders and used as a chance to increase tribal profit.

The Maori working class have been disadvantage because of the breakdown of unions and their relationships with employers. This reduced the workers ability to negotiate wages and affected their right to strike when working conditions are unfair. The increase of Maori unemployment is a reflection of the institutionalisation of neo liberal capitalist policy. Right wing Policies implemented in 1984, to free up foreign trade have affected the jobs of working class Māori. With the removal of industry subsidies and import tariffs the New Zealand manufacturing industry began to collapse, this lead to a loss of factory and labouring jobs. “The economic restructuring had a dis proportionate impact on Māori given their over representation in the working class.” (cited in Te Ahu Poata-Smith, 2004)
In the 1980s this effect was seen with the closure of numerous factories like the Southdown Meat Works and with the demise of the New Zealand textile industry, which lost 10,000 jobs in the period between 1976 and 1992. (Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 2012)

Militant Maori activists are opposed the government settling treaty land claims with money. This solution is seen as neoliberalism because by receiving large amounts of money for compensation of lost land, Maori are being forced to engage in enterprise and capitalism. If Maori were returned the land they lost, this would in contrast allow them the freedom to engage in schools of thought such as environmentalism and socialism.
‘While western countries like the united states and Britain have experimented with neo liberalism in their own economies, they have also aggressively and often violently forced it apon the postcolonial world’ (Hickel, 2012)This is also true of New Zealand and is evident in the treaty settlement process. This goes against the traditional tikanga or values of Maori and Philosophies such as Kinship and ‘tangata whenua’ which is literally people belonging to the land and these would align better with these other social models.
Socialism would relate to the collective identity which is strong amongst many Maori. “Reflected in attitudes, behaviours and lifestyles” and “There are genealogical, land, history and spiritual ties that bind groups.” (Berghan, 2007).  Maori moving away from capitalist motives would help Maori reconcile the grievances with the crown and would put a stop to worsening the divide amount their own people.

Ip and Pang’s analysis on the changing view of New Zealand to Chinese migrant identity. It identifies change from early immigration of Chinese men as sojourners working in Otago goldmines to that of Chinese as a Model Minority during the period between 1950s-1970s. Since the 1980s and the East Asian economic boom, our government and peoples view has changed. The pan Chinese culture in New Zealand has become multi-faceted with a range of identities from the Kiwi Chinese children of early gold miners to the newly immigrated wealthy international students and investors.

The first Chinese started arriving in the 1860s, selectively brought here by New Zealand government bodies such as the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce because they were hardworking and polite. Chinese men came to work in New Zealand without their families and because of their strong connection with China it was thought they would be unlikely to settle here. “The implication was that no decent Chinese person would wish to leave china for to long. Ultimately, like fallen leaves returning to the ground’, All overseas Chinese must go home” (Ip & Pang, p178). ‘This was important because at the time New Zealand wanted a labour force but did not want permanent migrants. For the most part they were brought to New Zealand to prospect for gold in the Otago gold field’s especially undesirable work like reworking abandoned claims.

However the sojourners were a very small minority in the area. They were barely tolerated by New Zealanders of the time and so they did their best to fly under the radar and not offend. The Chinese where living a humble life working in small specific areas where they were not in direct competition for jobs with mainstream New Zealanders such as laundrymen market gardeners and fruiterers. They still had a strong connection with their homeland and the fact they were unable to bring their family with them to New Zealand meant that they sent a lot of the money they acquired back to china and the New Zealand public were outraged and accused them of striping New Zealand Resources. This perpetuated racial and cultural predigest towards the Chinese even passing into legislation “Chinese were designated “undesirable” aliens they were the only people subjected to a poll tax. Introduced in 1881 at ten pounds, it was raised to 100 pounds by 1896” (Ip & Pang, p177).In 1920 a permit for all non-British people was introduces to all people wishing to enter the country was the beginning of the attempt to remove the Chinese population from new Zealand returning the country to a white haven. This growing hostility for the Chinese as well as a lack of welfare support meant they had to start up mutual help support groups within their small communities. ‘County organisations and clan associations were founded from the late 1870s onwards. They offered their member’s services like loans, temporary housing, employment advice and banking as well as immigration help’ (Ip & Pang, p178).
This was a crucial survival method for living in a foreign somewhat hostile nation. These groups continued to be used and grew until in the 1920s and 30s. The success of these groups allowed the Chinese to put up a united front showing calm and collected non radical singular view thus perpetuating the idea that Chinese as a people are always polite and united.

The second phase in the evolution of Chinese identity in New Zealand was described as the Model Minority phase this is seen to be between the 1950s till the 70s. After world war two Chinese were able to come to New Zealand as war refugees now able to bring with them their families. This was a step towards accepting Chinese people into New Zealand however in 1945 there were still twice as many Chinese males as Females. (Bickleen-Fong, 1959)
The Chinese also did not know that there citizenship was conditional on them giving up there language and culture and adopting a white English culture of New Zealand at the time again these ideas spread into policy for example “in 1951, when Chinese finally regained their rights to apply for citizenship, they had to satisfy more criteria than other applicants, first, they had to prove that they were closer to the British way of life (rather than the Chinese way of life).” (Ip & Pang, p179) This treatment split the Chinese immigrant community. For those Chinese people who were born in china and had a connection to their Chinese ness and homeland became introverted sticking within their small community unwilling to abandon their Chinese culture the second group were often born in new Zealand and were quick to distance themselves from their Chinese heritage and assimilate as best they could with the white new Zealand culture. “in self-mockery they would even call themselves ‘Bananas’ (yellow on the outside white on the inside)” (Ip & Pang, p179).

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Things didn’t improve for Chinese immigrants when in 1949 the communist party in China took over after the civil war during the time of communist rule the Chinese where involved in the Korean war and new Zealand as members of the allied force were technically at war with china also the communist party at the time commenced a social experiment of collectivisation in which 30 million Chinese died of starvation. This brought about mass distrust of the China as they hid themselves from the rest of the world. This unrest left Chinese living overseas with a lack of pride in their homeland and allowed them to distance themselves from China. In New Zealand there was an increasing tolerance for minorities and Chinese were able to live comfortably with the generosity of welfare and the least amount of discrimination. From the outside things were looking up however there was still a great separation between Chinese and the Pakeha community.

The final stage in the evolution in Chinese identity according to the article is Multiple Identity. This idea refers to Chinese in New Zealand from the 1980s till now. During this time period China have built up as an economic powerhouse and Chinese have become academically and financially very successful which puts them in high regard in our neo liberal and capitalist society. It can be seen that the assimilation of Chinese has happened especially within the Kiwi born Chinese. Chinese remain “recognisably alien in looks from the rest of the population, and retaining some marked differences in cultural characteristic.” (Bickleen-Fong, 1959 p.72) The New Zealand born Chinese have inherited there families work ethic and have taken advantage of the New Zealand Education system and therefore seen as very successful. The change in the social class of Chinese and the developments of the Chinese Republic have advanced New Zealander views on the Chinese and they now are seen as powerful allies and potential investors that could benefit New Zealand. If this hasn’t led to acceptance of Chinese it has at least created curiosity that can be seen though New Zealand with the teaching of Asian Languages in schools and the diverse celebrations of events such as Chinese new year and the lantern festival.

There is now an increased respect for China and Chinese people this is because New Zealand now sees the importance of business relationships between the two countries. There is economic gain to be made by keeping close ties to china and as an export nation we are heavily reliant on china purchasing from us and investing in our country. “Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said New Zealand should not be hypocritical when it comes to foreign investment from China. He said that the two countries can’t expect to sell resources to China and then turn their backs on the Chinese when their businesses want to invest.” (Xinhua, 2012) Is a modern example of the Western Nations forcing ideas on to other countries, a process as I stated earlier that has been happening since colonial times. This example also shows a neo liberalist approach to Chinese business, it also fits with the idea that if they have the money to buy and invest we should not regulate against them.

In terms of class structure for the Chinese people when they first arrived in New Zealand they were humble working class people doing work that New Zealanders at the time didn’t want to do. In contrast, now the Chinese people who are both brought up in New Zealand and arriving in New Zealand are highly educated and highly adept at working the neo liberal capitalist system and alternatively to the past china itself has gone away from its communist ideas of the 1940s and wealth is now held by a few at the top whom we readily invite and encourage to come and invest in New Zealand. Maori people are having conflicting cultural values with the Neoliberals society with economically successful tribes embracing Neoliberal concepts whilst traditional Maori are being left behind. The adoption of the neo liberal ideas for both cultures has resulted in acceptance by the Hegemony. Allow them to be viewed as successful and valued in our society.  This shows our society has been constructed to appreciate monetary wealth.

With the general acceptance of Chinese as a benefit to New Zealand. The Multiculturalism is raising concerns with Maori. This fear is rooted around misconception of the treaty as a Bi Cultural document. There is concern that the new immigrants are not knowledgeable about the grievances and implications of the Treaty of Waitangi and fear that with the growing multiculturalism the treaty could lose value to non-Maori. However the treaty is a document signed by Maori and The Crown. The Crown is represented by our new Zealand governing body representing all Non Maori Pakeha in New Zealand. Pakeha is not just white residents of New Zealand. It is a  “ phenomenon that could only accrete in New Zealand from the Maori, European and wider human ingredients that history has cast up on these shores – then what we are acknowledging here is not something foreign: it is a second indigenous New Zealand culture.” (King, p.40). This definition represents Pakeha as an inclusive group of all non-Maori New Zealanders.

My views are shaped by my whakapapa. My family are Immigrants to New Zealand, who came from Holland in the 1940’s and 1980’s. My father who came 1985 believed in making an effort to assimilate with the people of Aotearoa. He saw New Zealand as a Maori Nation with a focus on the environment and so studied the language at Te Whananga O Aotearoa. He passed this importance to me by immersing me in a bi lingual primary education.  My views on the Maori treaty settlement process are conflicted as I disagree with the Maori corporate entities using the system for financial gain rather than benefiting environment and social causes. However I also think why is it that Maori need to be morally responsible? When large corporate businesses and even government service such as the post service are all expected to make a profit, The Maori too deserve the right to make money off their assets. This is the way to be viewed as successful in the Western World.


  • Alessi, M. D. (2012). The Political Economy of Fishing Rights and Claims . Journal of Agrarian Change, 390-412.
  • Berghan, G. (2007). What does a collective identity mean from a Maori point of view? . Hauora, 3.
  • Bickleen-Fong, N. (1959). The Chinese in New Zealand. Hong Kong University Press, 145.
  • Hickel, J. (2012). A Short History of Neoliberalism (and how we can fix it). New Left Project, 1-6.
  • Ip, M., & Pang, D. (2005). New Zealand Chinese Identity: Sojourners,Model Minority and Multiple Identities. New Zealand Identities: Departures and Destinations, 174-188.
  • King, M. (2004). Being Pakeha now : reflections and recollections of a white native. Auckland: Penguin .
  • Xinhua. (2012). Former Australian PM tells New Zealands to Accept Chinese investment . Xinhua Economic News, 1.
  • Te Ahu Poata-Smith, E. (2004). Ka Tika a Muri, Ka Tika a Mua? Māori Protest Politics and                the Waitangi Settlement Process. In Tangata Tangata: The Changing Ethnic Contours of New Zealand (pp. 59-89). Victoria, Australia: Cengage Learning Australia.
  • Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand (2012, July 13). 5. Inflation and deregulation, 1970s to 2000s. Retrieved May 17, 2014, from              industries/page-5
  • Alessi, M. D. (2012). The Political Economy of Fishing Rights and Claims . Journal of Agrarian Change, 390-412.
  • Berghan, G. (2007). What does a collective identity mean from a Maori point of view? . Hauora, 3.
  • Bickleen-Fong, N. (1959). The Chinese in New Zealand. Hong Kong University Press, 145.
  • Hickel, J. (2012). A Short History of Neoliberalism (and how we can fix it). New Left Project, 1-6.
  • Ip, M., & Pang, D. (2005). New Zealand Chinese Identity: Sojourners,Model Minority and Multiple Identities. New Zealand Identities: Departures and Destinations, 174-188.
  • King, M. (2004). Being Pakeha now : reflections and recollections of a white native. Auckland: Penguin .
  • Xinhua. (2012). Former Australian PM tells New Zealands to Accept Chinese investment . Xinhua Economic News, 1.



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