Being Kiwi: Ties to Aotearoa remain strong in foreign land

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The Cotter family, (from left) Raniera, 9, Trish, Isaac and Ihaka, 13, say New Zealand is home.  Photo / Andrew Campbell
The Cotter family, (from left) Raniera, 9, Trish, Isaac and Ihaka, 13, say New Zealand is home. Photo / Andrew Campbell

Isaac Cotter's teenage children see themselves as Maori New Zealanders despite being born in Australia - their father has been away from home for more than three decades.

Ihaka, 13, and Raniera, 9, live in Queanbeyan, New South Wales. Ihaka plays union on a Saturday, league on Sunday, loves the guitar and jiu jitsu. He wants to play for the All Blacks. He emphatically is not a Mozzie, a Maori Australian: "I feel I'm a Maori New Zealander. I'm up with the Maori stuff," he says.

His mother, Trish Cotter, says Australia has afforded them opportunities. They own their own home and send their youngest to a private school: "I've got Aussie citizenship and Australia has been a good country to us, but it's not our country. It belongs to the Aboriginal people, we're just visiting. Our real home is NZ."

Mr Cotter, 53, a trucking contractor, crossed the Tasman for a three-week holiday in 1976 but never returned home to Gisborne.

While the 92 non-Maori interviewed for this series describe themselves by their jobs, familial relationships or their qualities, every one of the 15 Maori identify themselves by their ethnicity. Statistics NZ and Australia's census put the total of Maori across Australasia last year at 801,930. A sixth of them, 128,430, live west of the Tasman.

Brendon Hohepa, born in Ahipara in 1932, is strident about his identity. He is "a Maori". "I consider 'New Zealand' and 'Kiwi' to be terms coined by Pakeha." Masela Hellesoe, 22, sees herself as Tuhoe, Samoan, Danish and Dutch and gets annoyed when people pre-judge her because she looks European.

"Sometimes I feel like I need to get a tattoo or a moko to show off that I'm Samoan and Maori," she says.

Stevie-Ray Clarke, 20, sees himself as a "Maori Catholic" Kiwi. He was born and raised in Waitakere, wants to be happy and have a family - that's all dependent on finding a wife first, he jokes. In the meantime he's been sizing up a move to Australia mainly for perceived job opportunities.

But Pakeha also have taken ownership of things Maori.

Former school principal Ian Hughes, 68, named his children Tane and Kiri. "I suppose I have an affinity that way," he says.

Keith Illingsworth, 88 next week, has special memories of teaching at a Maori school at Koroniti on the Whanganui River. "It was the only place I cried when I left."

Norman East, 81, says race relations have improved since he came from England 30 years ago: "The Maori aspect is less volatile..."

Margaret Mackay, almost 90, remembers Sir Peter Buck speaking of his dream for New Zealand children to be "one colour" around the time her first son was born 62 years ago.

"I looked at my little Pakeha child and said that can't happen, I won't let it happen," she says. "But it's got to happen, otherwise there will be this continuous fight over who owns what."

Colin Watkins, 55, is married to a Maori but describes himself as "a pure-bred mongrel Pakeha".

"I have strong affiliation with the Maori world but all the blood in my veins is European," he says. "I don't like the term 'tauiwi' [non-Maori], it's derogatory. 'Pakeha' is the term I grew up with, it was never used to me in a disparaging way - it's a term that my Maori friends have used with some degree of respect."

The question
Who are we: what does it mean to be a New Zealander in today's interconnected world?

The context
The "typical" New Zealander who will read the new compact Herald is much harder to pin down now that we are more likely than ever either to have come here from overseas or to have been born here and gone.

The methods
A DigiPoll of 750 New Zealanders plus in-depth interviews with 91 people in New Zealand and 16 NZ-born people in Australia, including similar numbers in five 20-year age bands. The NZ interviews were arranged with the help of primary schools spanning the decile range in north and West Auckland, Cambridge, Rotorua and Christchurch. In addition historians at the online encyclopedia Te Ara selected 30 key events that helped shape our identity over the past 100 years.

The team
Greg Ansley, Kurt Bayer, Simon Collins, Yvonne Tahana, Lincoln Tan, Vaimoana Tapaleao.

The series
Monday: Pioneer stock - aged 80-plus
Tuesday: War babies - aged 60-79
Today: Opening up - aged 40-59
Tomorrow: Children of Rogernomics - aged 20-39
Friday: Sport unites the nation - aged under 20

Snapshot: New Zealanders aged 40 to 59

* European 77.2%
* Maori 7.5%
* Asian 6.9%
* Pacific 3.9%
* European-Maori 2.7%
* Other/mixtures 1.9%

Where we are:
* New Zealand 81.9%
* Australia 14.1%
* Rest of world 4%

Source: Statistics NZ

What shaped us: Key events 1952-72

Edmund Hillary climbs Everest. On the eve of the coronation Hillary gave a perfect gift to the young Queen and confirmed that we were the "best of the British" and a modest, physically strong outdoor people.
Television begins. New Zealand began to see itself on the screen and to have instant images from the rest of the world.
Doctors begin prescribing the contraceptive pill. The pill gave greater sexual freedom to Kiwis and allowed women more control over their lives.
New Zealand enters the Vietnam War. Opposition to the war developed a belief in the importance of an independent New Zealand whose identity was not in providing territorials for the British or American empires.
Census announces more urban Maori than rural. In 1936, 90 per cent of Maori lived in the country, very separate from Pakeha. Now Maori had followed most other New Zealanders into the city and had to live and work together. New Zealanders were an urban people.
Save Manapouri campaign. The largest petition in New Zealand history revealed a national desire to save the country's environment. "Clean and green" was born.

Source: 30 key events 1912-2012 selected by Dr Jock Phillips and his team at the online encyclopedia Te Ara. More online at:

- NZ Herald

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