Catholic News - Catholic Telecommunications, a devision of Catholic Resources





NZ religious leaders condemn Brash's race comments

In a rare joint statement, 20 Anglican and Catholic bishops in New Zealand have condemned the views on race of the country's Opposition Leader Don Brash, who believes that Maori people get too many special rights and government handouts.

Dr Brash triggered widespread debate following a speech on race relations just over a month ago. He said the country is drifting dangerously towards racial separatism.

He said the Government, which believes the "Maori minority.. has a birthright to the upper hand", is destroying "traditional kiwi values" by funding a "culture of welfare dependency".

Newspapers and talkback radio were flooded with calls from people agreeing with Dr Brash, saying that Maori have been getting preferential treatment.

Since the claims, Maori medical students admitted on an ethnic quota are reported to be suffering a backlash, according to a leading health academic.

The bishops' statement said most Maori health, education and welfare programs are needs-based rather than examples of ethnic privilege.

"If claims to the contrary are made, we would ask they be tested in the light of facts and figures," the 12 Anglican and eight Catholic bishops said.

"Self determination is the issue, not ethnic privilege. Government schemes giving preferential treatment to Maori accounts for less than two per cent of the national budgets on health and education.

"The evidence for such preference being effective in addressing huge socio-economic disparities is overwhelming, compared to the failure of policies that treat everyone the same."

"Equally important for us, the document forms a spiritual covenant through promises made by our forebears and never forgotten by Maori. To break those long-standing promises is to erode the moral foundation of the nation and undermine the ethical basis of Pakeha settlement in New Zealand," said the bishops.

Dr Brash defended the right of bishops to express a view on this political issue but said he hoped it was on the basis of factual information and good historical material.

He disagreed with a number of the bishops' statements, saying he did not see the treaty as something that was living in the sense that it was evolving.

Bishops hit out at Brash's race relations policies ( 1/3/04)

Bishops Call for Treaty Debate Not Race Debate (Text of Statement - Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia)
Don Brash Home Page | Nationhood speech (27/1/04)
NZ religious leaders condemn Brash's race comments (ABC Radio The World Today 2/3/04)
NZ race relations row (ABC The World Today 28/1/04)
Bishops labelled 'pompous and out of touch' (Dominion Post/ 2/3/04)
Health academic says National's stand affecting Maori students (NZPA/ 1/3/04)
Colin James: Values are the power that drives the Brash revolution (NZ Herald 2/3/04)
Debate Treaty, not race say bishops (Hawkes Bay Today 1/3/04)
Marc My Words - Maori Rights and Wrongs (

2 Mar 2004