Fran O'Sullivan: Cast off the negativity and Maori can thrive

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Aspirational 'Mozzies' in reality show have escaped old leaders' tired messages of loss and suffering

The cast of 'The GC' are made of more inspiring stuff than the doleful politicians back home. Photo / Supplied
The cast of 'The GC' are made of more inspiring stuff than the doleful politicians back home. Photo / Supplied

The great thing about TV3's new reality show The GC is how it openly shows young go-for-it Mozzies (Maori Aussies) having a really good time.

Instead of wallowing in some tribal backwater, they have skipped across the Tasman to build successful entrepreneurial futures alongside other Kiwis in Australia and enjoy the "sun, surf and sex" lifestyles.

The problem is that too many Maori leaders - particularly politicians - aren't made of the same stuff.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia is one who clearly lives in a parallel universe from the young Mozzies chasing the good life on Australia's Gold Coast.

The lifestyle these good-looking young Maori lead is miles away from Turia's predicaments.

I'd like to know what the participants in this show really think about her current demand that Maori should be able to qualify for national superannuation at 60 (much earlier than others) if the age of eligibility for other New Zealanders is raised from 65 to 67 or higher to lessen the overall burden on taxpayers. Turia's rationale is that Maori should get super earlier as they have shorter lifespans.

It is true that the average lifespan is lower for Maori than other New Zealanders.

It is also true that some Maori are deprived. That proportionately more Maori end up in our jails than Pakeha or Asians, and that proportionately more Maori inflict serious child abuse, inhabit gangland, are unemployed or get sick than many other ethnicities.

Note here the use of the word "some".

Blanket statements - like those made by my fellow columnist Paul Holmes railing against the Waitangi Day disruptions - are likely to earn a big slap in today's extraordinarily touchy environment where the boundaries of free speech are increasingly being shortened.

But is it really fair to lay the guilt for this cycle of deprivation on all other New Zealanders?

As the reality show illustrates, many Maori have opted not to stay stuck in the dreadful hole of deprivation that Turia - with her trademark dolefulness - constantly highlights as she skilfully manipulates the senior Government partner to extract more special privileges for her people.

NZ On Air - which copped flak for chipping in $420,000 for the series - has since released the proposal for the show which spells out it aimed to show "positive, confident Maori in prime time on a commercial channel in an informative, yet entertaining and inspirational observational series".

The show's original working title was "Golden Mozzies".

It was to be aspirational, but also indicate how their life was perceived negatively by those back home, how they are commonly referred to as "plastic" Maori, and were apparently "rolling in it".

Maori should embrace these young people's success.

But too much reinforcement is negative.

The problem is that Turia herself does not do enough to reinforce individual Maori success. It's tempting to reflect on what a major influence she could be if she embraced Maori success in a more open and inspirational fashion.

For instance, it would have been fantastic to see her at this week's World Class New Zealand awards to hear young opera singer Kawiti Waetford thrill his audience and to celebrate Kiri Te Kanawa, who received Kea's first Iconic New Zealander award.

Maori are also an extraordinarily entrepreneurial people. NZ On Air cited a 2006 Global Entrepreneurship Monitoring report which indicated Maori were responsible for 17.7 per cent of all New Zealand entrepreneurial activity.

This is underscored by the Maori business mission led by Turia's co-leader, Pita Sharples. But this story is not widely known even within Maoridom.

Reports say nearly 130,000 Maori call Australia home and it is estimated that as many as one in six Maori live in Australia.

My pick is Maori will continue to cross the Ditch in even bigger numbers to chase high-paying jobs in mining or better lifestyles on the Gold Coast where they can create their own futures free of the negative reinforcement their leaders espouse.

- NZ Herald

Fran O'Sullivan

A columnist for the NZ Herald

Fran O'Sullivan has written a weekly column for the Business Herald since its inception in April 1997. In her early journalistic career she was a political journalist in Wellington and subsequently an investigative journalist who broke many major business stories including the first articles that led to the Winebox Inquiry in both NBR and the Sydney Morning Herald. She has specific expertise in relation to China where she has been a frequent visitor since the late 1990s. She is a former Editor of the National Business Review; has twice been awarded Qantas Journalist of the Year and is a multiple winner of the Westpac Financial Journalism Supreme Award.

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