Racial issues have become a prominent topic in New Zealand’s election, despite assurances from former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that the country had moved beyond them. It is widely anticipated that a Coalition government will reverse race-based policies implemented by Ardern’s Labour government.
ACT leader David Seymour has argued that policies aimed at addressing inequality by giving preference to Maori have actually created inequality among the rest of the population. He has also pledged to close down the ministry established for the advancement of Pacific people.
Since leading her Labour party to a landslide victory in 2020, Ardern has prioritized the recognition of Maori as New Zealand’s first people. Her government has promoted “co-governance,” which involves sharing some management responsibilities between the state and indigenous people. They have also pushed for the use of Maori language in everyday life and established the Maori Health Authority. Additionally, the Labour government has been working towards financially compensating tribes for land that was stolen or misappropriated during British colonization.
However, the ACT Party and New Zealand First argue that many of these initiatives aimed at addressing race issues have only served to exacerbate them. They claim that granting special rights to Maori undermines the principle of equal rights for all citizens. Meanwhile, the government rejects any suggestion of rolling back Maori rights, arguing that doing so would constitute racism. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has accused the opposition of “playing the race card,” while Maori community leader Naida Glavish believes that talk of undoing race-based policies indicates a resurgence of overt racism.
Polls suggest that the National Party will win the most seats in the election but will need to form a coalition with one or even two minor parties to govern. The National Party has expressed a preference to partner with ACT but is open to discussions with NZ First. Both ACT and NZ First have seen their poll numbers rise, with the latest survey showing they hold 18% of the vote.
Political commentator Ben Thomas suggests that the issue of race has gained prominence partly because the government has failed to convince the public that co-governance does not equate to a Maori takeover of New Zealand. This lack of clarity has fueled concerns and heightened the race-related debate in the country.
In conclusion, New Zealand’s election has seen an increasing focus on racial issues, with the potential for a Coalition government to wind back race-based policies. While the Labour government has emphasized the recognition and empowerment of Maori, opposition parties argue that these initiatives only perpetuate inequality and undermine the principle of equal rights for all citizens. The election outcome remains uncertain, but it is clear that the issue of race will continue to be a significant factor in shaping New Zealand’s future.