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  • Writer's pictureCarol Barron

Racism, Race-baiting & the Rule of Law

I have been so disappointed, outraged and ashamed, often all at the same time, when hearing what has been said leading up to the election. I thought that Aotearoa New Zealand had become more mature and could debate the issues affecting our society, sadly this does not seem to be the case.


Campaigning and korero around co-governance has highlighted what seems to be a giant step backwards to the infamous Don Brash speech in Orewa in 2004. Accusations of “race-based policies” are not helpful as they are dismissive of the actual disadvantage that is the sad reality for some in our communities.


Aotearoa New Zealand’s colonial history has resulted in tāngata whenua being over represented in negative economic and social statistics. These include:

  • Māori life expectancy is considerably lower than non-Māori[1]

  • Māori health status remains unequal with non-Māori across almost all chronic and infectious diseases, as well as injuries, including suicide[2]

  • Māori are disproportionately represented in the most deprived neighbourhood areas[3] and are less likely to own their own home than other ethnic groups[4]

  • Māori are less advantaged than non-Māori across many socioeconomic indicators[5]


The impact of COVID-19 disproportionately impacted on Māori, Pasifika, young people, women and those with disabilities. This combined with the intergenerational effects of trauma, colonisation, and racism has resulted in the widening gap between rich and poor – advantage and disadvantage.


Claiming the “one rule for all” dismisses the inequities that exist in our society, gives permission to disregard these inequities, and do nothing to address them.

The rule of law is quite different. The rule of law is the principle where Government and every person is bound by the law and everyone is accountable under the law. However, for the rule of law to be effective, there must be equality under the law, transparency of the law, an independent judicial system, and access to legal remedy.

Source: https://www.gisreportsonline.com/r/israel-democracy/


It can be argued that statistics show that there is not equality under the law. The Department of Corrections report that Māori offenders are more likely to have Police contact, be charged, lack legal representation, not be granted bail, plead guilty, be convicted, be sentenced to non-monetary penalties, and be denied release to Home Detention.[6] Corrections also report that “Māori men are 3.5 times more likely to be sentenced to imprisonment.”[7] Māori constitute 52.7% of our prison population[8] and the Māori imprisonment rate is 700 per 100,000 while Aotearoa New Zealand’s overall imprisonment rate is 180 per 100,000.[9] Corrections report that “there appears to be sufficient evidence to conclude that ethnicity, in and of itself, plays some small but tangible role at key decision making points, in ways that are not intended by the justice system.”[10]


Research has shown that inequality affects everyone as it creates mindsets of superiority and inferiority, and affects how we interact and treat each other. If we want to live in a just and inclusive society where everyone flourishes, then we need to advocate for this, and be a voice for the most vulnerable.


As Methodists, we have a strong history of advocating for social justice and our social principles[11] guide this mahi. These include:

2. The sacredness of human personality and the equal value of all men and women in the sight of God.

  • Standing firm for human rights, decrying the violation of human dignity based on race, class, age, sex, culture, faith, sexuality or other identities used for the purpose of creating division rather than affirming diversity.

  • Listening and responding to the needs of the most vulnerable, marginalised and disadvantaged people in our society and communities.

  • That as people of our many cultures and races we forge a multicultural society where these peoples may live in unity and diversity, maintaining different cultural traditions and languages, yet with a common destiny based on commitment to the ideals of equality, tolerance, justice and compassion.


4. Communal and individual responsibility for the due care for those vulnerable in our society.

  • Dignity and reasonable standards of living for those who because of age, infirmity or family needs are not able to work.

  • The care, nurture and safeguarding of children and youth.

  • The removal of the root causes which perpetuate and compound cycles of poverty, unemployment, abuse and violence.

  • Addressing the widening gap between rich and poor, to uphold economic and social values which move us toward a society of equity and compassion and a sharing of resources for the common good.

  • Work for systems of criminal rehabilitation based on restorative justice.


5. The opportunity for all to live well and with integrity.

  • The rights of all people to equal quality educational opportunities, adequate accessible and universal health care, and affordable healthy housing.

  • The right to freedom of conscience, constitutional liberty, integrity of public life, secrecy of the ballot, rights of each citizen to participate in decision-making in the community, and access to the Courts.

  • Christian influence by lawful means in politics and civic affairs for the correction of injustices wherever they occur.

Our Conference decision-making demonstrates our Te Tiriti partnership between Te Taha Māori and Tauiwi. This is co-governance in action. When Conference changed to this model, we also adopted consensus decision-making. Making decisions by consensus enables opportunities for minority options to be acknowledged, more participation by members, a greater chance of obtaining unity of purpose which reflects a variety of values, and more stable longer lasting decisions. This is in stark contrast to our Parliamentary system which is based on an adversarial system that encourages argument rather than working towards consensus.


We need to be a champion for co-governance and share how more attention to consensus decision-making works. Imagine a government that works towards reaching a consensus with agreed cross-party policies relating to social housing, health, education, and climate action that are durable when there is a change in government. Imagine policies that would provide for the immediate financial and material needs of people who are disadvantaged, as well as addressing their root causes – this would break the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage.


Imagine removing the barriers to accessing health, and education based on equity rather than an equality basis – this would increase social mobility opportunities.

Imagine an Aotearoa where we have policies that provide for safe, secure housing, an adequate and secure income, equitable access to affordable transport, childcare, health services, and good education.


Imagine a society where long-term investment in social inclusion results in people no longer experiencing discrimination and racism.


Imagine actually making this happen in your lifetime.


Carol Barron, National Coordinator

03 375 0512 | 027 561 9164 | Carol@MethodistAlliance.org.nz

[1] https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/healthy-living/m/m%C4%81ori-health-overview/ [2] Ibid [3] Ministry of Health, Wai 2575 Māori Health Trends Report, October 2019, p16 [4] Statistics NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa, Housing in Aotearoa: 2020, 2020, p10 [5] Ministry of Health, Wai 2575 Māori Health Trends Report, October 2019, p19 [6] https://www.corrections.govt.nz/resources/research/over-representation-of-maori-in-the-criminal-justice-system/2.0-criminal-justice-system-bias-and-amplification/2.6-summary-and-conclusion [7] Ibid [8] https://www.corrections.govt.nz/resources/statistics/quarterly_prison_statistics/prison_stats_march_2021 [9] https://www.corrections.govt.nz/resources/research/over-representation-of-maori-in-the-criminal-justice-system/2.0-criminal-justice-system-bias-and-amplification/2.0-criminal-justice-system-bias-and-amplification [10] Ibid [11] MCNZ Law Book updated to Conference 2021, P19

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