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February 04, 2011

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Siobhan McHugh

Richard, lovely to hear your take on NZ and I too was greatly impressed by the place and the people. Have to disagree with your comment about there being 'no indigenous people' there. You say ' Even the Maoris have been there only 1000 or so years and again they are people who voluntarily, seeked out new and fertile land.'

It felt pretty clear to me, travelling round NZ for two weeks after the conference, that the Maori ARE absolutely the indigenous people of NZ. After all, if there was no-one there before them, why wouldn't they be? Later comers are the interlopers. But more importantly, it's clear that the Maori are deeply and intrinsically linked to the landscape and have their own very definitive culture, established well ahead of British colonialism - hence the pragmatic negotiations around the Waitangi Treaty, which, however flawed, is a lot more than the Australian Aborigines have.

I realise there are huge issues ahead for the Maori, but it was great to see what a prominent role they occupy in NZ as cultural custodians -just things like a carved Maori stone at the entrance to a bush walk, telling you you were entering Maori land.

Go New Zealand - you punch way above your weight!

Richard Rudin

Hi Siobhan. You're absolutely right about the way that NZ both recognises and respects - and indeed celebrates - the Maori culture. Perhaps no more so than in Rotorua where I spent the first few days of my trip and even where I went to the 'the batch' on the Bay of Plenty there was a Moari shrine, with a notice asking people not to disturb it. It may be fanciful but I definitely felt more 'centred' and in tune with the natural world. This is partly because of the much smaller population compared with the UK and therefore much more unspoilt country but I am sure the Maori presence has a lot to do with it.
In conversations and in listening to Radio New Zealand (as I was last night) and other radio stations it is clear there ARE tensions between the white European far more recent settlers and the Polynesians, and the Maori political rep's are very unhappy with the latest 'treaty' but there seems much less tension/animosity than - to take the obvious comparison - with the Aborigines in Austria and the First Nation/native Americans in both the US and Canada - where (as I realise you are more than aware!),the older settlers/indigenous peoples suffered genocide and were for many decades wiped out of the countries' histories and cultures.
In NZ the tribal warfare BETWEEN Maoris was certainly bloody and prolongued and I liked the way the AuCkland museum did not dodge this and, whilst respectful, didn't have the 'everything was fine until the Europeans arrrived' angle, cos it definitely wasn't, albeit of course the Europeans in innocence brought in diseases to which the Maoris had no natural resistance, with terrible consequences.
The point I was trying to make was the history of NZ is far more harmonious from all elements and ethnicities and this makes for a more relaxed society, with mutual respect (equality in diversity to use the cliche) than any other country I can think of that was colonised by the Europeans in the 18th/19th centuries. The inter-marital mixing (again this is experience/observation from people I know) seems to have strengthened both cultures.

Anyhow, thanks for taking the time/trouble to write a comment. It was so great to meet you and I'll continue to use your work for both inspiration and exemplar!

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