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Closing the Gaps


Since 1984 the Maori community has seen big changes. By 2001 nearly 1 in 7 New Zealanders, about 15 percent, were Maori.

Maori have found a new sense of self confidence and independence. Maori radio and television today contribute diversity to broadcasting. Maori language has even invaded the most English of settings, the plays of William Shakespeare.

Films also project Maori stories around the world. Maori are no longer just tourist icons and dancing natives. They are now involved in every kind of business, including New Zealand's biggest fishing company. Maori entrepreneurs have changed Kaikoura from a depressed backwater gutted by the loss of railways into a world class whale watching venue.

But Maori still have lower annual income, lower life expectancy, poorer educational outcomes and poorer housing than Pakeha. Over the last decade governments and Maori have tried to close these gaps.

Kura Kaupapa Maori schools have emerged. They teach their subjects in Maori and Maori students can now receive a major part of their education in the Maori language.

A key focus for Maori is still the Treaty of Waitangi. The settlement of Treaty grievances has often polarised a sometimes sympathetic, sometimes resentful New Zealand public.

The settlement process was made possible when the Waitangi Tribunal was allowed to look at claims from the 19th century as far back as 1840. Maori believed this would help revive tribal mana. In 1991 Maori had lodged 200 claims. By 2004 there were over 1,200.

One of the most significant Treaty settlements was with the Waikato Tainui tribe. They had suffered when huge tracts of land were confiscated after the New Zealand wars. In 1995 Queen Elizabeth signed the settlement law herself, the only time she has ever signed a New Zealand law in public.

Maori have never been a docile part of the community and Pakeha have often misunderstood the reasons for the raised voices. Despite a recent backlash from some Pakeha, Maori still seek to have Pakeha understand Maori issues.


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