“Here’s the rub if you are Māori—we’re not indigenous,” Mr. Peters said.
The leader of the New Zealand First Party Winston Peters has stood by his statement that Māori are not Indigenous despite media backlash and condemnation by leaders from across the political spectrum.
“Here’s the rub if you are Māori—we’re not indigenous,” Mr. Peters, who is of Māori and Scottish descent, said at the meeting.
“We come from Hawai-iki. Where’s our Hawai-iki? We think it is in the Cook Islands. We think it’s in Rarotonga … but we’re not from here. And we go back 5,000 years, we came with our DNA from China. Not like 55,000 years in Australia.”
He added that it was not possible to be indigenous in two countries at the same time.
Mr. Peters has doubled down on the statement in a series of follow-up interviews and public appearances.
Leaders from the centre-left Labour Party, centre-right National Party, and libertarian ACT have decried Mr. Peter’s statement.
Labour Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said Mr. Peters’ statement was “another example” of the kind of “divisive policies” that NZ First would bring to a National-ACT-NZ First coalition government.
“Māori are indigenous to New Zealand,” Mr. Hipkins told reporters.
Similarly, National Leader Christopher Luxon told reporters that Mr. Peters was wrong and Maori were “absolutely” indigenous to New Zealand.
Meanwhile, ACT Leader David Seymour described Mr. Peters’ comments as “ugly.”
Despite the backlash, Mr. Peters has stood by his comments, calling it “plain fact.”
He said all iwi (people), including his own, knew their whakapapa (genealogy) and narrative.
Mr. Peters questioned why stating a fact would blow into such a big controversy, noting two late Māori leaders, Sir Peter Buck, and Sir Apirana Ngata, backed such views.
“I want this country to be united going forward. We all know we’ve got DNA that comes all the way across the Pacific and you can trace it,” he said.
Mr. Peters warned against claiming entitlement to special rights just because they had settled in the country earlier, noting it “rules out everybody else.”
NZ First has said that UNDRIP and He Puapua, a report outlining pathways to meet the commitments to UNDRIP, imposed race-based obligations that threatened New Zealand’s constitution and democracy.
“Pulling out of UNDRIP will consign He Puapua to the rubbish bin of racism,” NZ First said in its policy announcement.
More Important Things to Focus On
Casey Costello, a candidate for NZ First and of Māori and Anglo-Irish descent, said the media pile-on against Mr. Peters’ comments detracted from real issues that need addressing.
“There’s a lot bigger issues that we need to be facing,” she told The Epoch Times.
“Let’s talk about how are we going to get better outcomes, how we’re going to draw better accountability, all those sorts of things.”
She believes that the widespread criticism of Mr. Peters statement that Māori are not indigenous stemmed from a fear of speaking ‘openly and honestly’ about race, as well as the need to be as least offensive as possible.
“When you talk about race, people are hesitant because of the potential of [people saying] you’re hostile or you’re aggressive,” she said.
“So it taints your ability to have honest and serious conversations,” she added.
“I think that’s really why, there’s that desperate need to be seen to be as moderate as possible so that you’re not offending anyone.”
Ms. Casey said the issue of race in New Zealand was both galvanising and polarising, which made the debate on sensitive race issues more difficult.
“What New Zealand First is trying to say is that you can’t evade the truth and keep everybody happy,” she said.
“If we can’t have honest, serious conversations, we’re never going to come up with honest and serious solutions.”