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NZ bishop draws line between indigenous rights and race distinction

Bishop Peter Cullinane of Palmerston North has said there's been a blurring of the difference between a claim to privilege based on race, and the claim to rights based on indigenous status.

Referring to recent conflict between Maori and non-indigenous New Zealanders, Bishop Cullinane said all New Zealanders, including politicians and the media, must remain objective and fair in the way they identify issues concerned with race relations in the country.

In a statement published on the Catholic Communications website, he alluded to a 1989 statement by the late Justice Paul Temm QC, who suggested ignorance often gets in the way of New Zealanders' innate sense of fairness.

Bishop Cullinane accused the country's Opposition Leader Don Brash of "taking unfair advantage" of this ignorance. Dr Brash triggered widespread debate following a speech on race relations earlier this year in which he accused the Clark Government of "traditional kiwi values" by funding and fostering in Maoris a "culture of welfare dependency".

"It is precisely this situation that Dr Brash seems to have taken unfair advantage of," said Bishop Cullinane. "It is one thing to stimulate honest, constructive debate around the real issues. It is another to appeal to the fairness of people while blurring the issues, which only leads to people talking past each other."

Bishop Peter Cullinane: Let us be fair and informed (Catholic Communications NZ 11/5/04)

NZ religious leaders condemn Brash's race comments (CathNews 2/3/04)
Diocese of Palmerston North

12 May 2004