As my time runs out as a columnist, let me make a bleak roll call of my Maori relations and friends.

The family I lived with after my parents separated when I was 11 are all gone. Uncle at 43, aunty at 66, five first cousins who died from either cancer or heart attacks. Gone.

My family lost a brother and two first cousins in a car crash. A year later another car crash claimed our 10-year-old sister. In virtually every family at least one cousin died 30 to 50 years before they should.

Of the rugby teams I played in from age 16 to 17, at least eight are gone, most 10-20 years ago. Of the senior rugby teams - from the same predominantly Maori club in Rotorua - I have lost count of the missing.


Of the pa girls I grew up with the majority have died. And many of their children. One family member has lost three of her kids, another's son took his own life in prison. The boys I grew up with now gone could make up two-thirds of a rugby team. This roll call has more silences than voices saying "present".

In contrast, on both sides of my middle-class Pakeha wife's family only a handful were lost early. The vast majority lived and are living their four score and more. No one got killed in a car crash, died from obesity problems, died in prison, from smoking, or reckless living, or from ignorance.

There wasn't the despair of childhood trauma, of abuse to cope with in a confusing adulthood. They lived quite full, meaningful, informed lives. My own Pakeha side tells a similar story. Why? None of the above touched them and virtually all had a tertiary education, ate healthy food.

Do Maori have earlier death both genetically and culturally programmed? Cursed by our lack of education so we are easily seduced to buying products that harm us, from cigarettes to a range of rubbish food. Duped and dumped on by the unscrupulous and unprincipled.

At Whaka in Rotorua we became sort of famous as the penny divers. Retrieving coins thrown from the bridge by tourists was life itself, for we had our several hot pools to warm up in and socialise as we counted our takings. We had no idea we were swimming in toxic waters.

My Pakeha father, a forestry scientist, knew a factory was discharging poisonous chemicals into the river. But kids are ruled by their peers not their parents. He also considered it a form of begging; something else we didn't see.

And he forbade the "Maori diet" in our home as he loathed fat and excess of any description. But I had swapped families.

Our innocent bodies were being pummelled by the factory. And assailed by our ignorance of a healthier lifestyle. My wonderful, obese uncle and aunty served us up fatty roast mutton cooked in fat, with roast spuds, and thickly buttered heaps of white bread -- for breakfast. Before school. Fatty sausages were cooked immersed in dripping. We spread dripping (beef fat for you younger readers) on our bread. School lunch had white bread base. Dinner was two huge pots of boil-up pork bones, or brisket, with spuds, doughboys, over-cooked cabbage lost of its fibre. Always with white bread. It was beautiful and still is. But killing us.

Virtually every kid played sport and we were born naturals. No one felt as if anything was wrong health-wise, let alone our diet other than the best on planet Earth. But the clocks were ticking and from several points. Clocks yet to start in most of our Pakeha counterparts destined to live many years longer than us on average.

The health problems for the following generations have somewhat of a different cause. Called fast food and crap food. Supermarkets abound with "CHEAP BARGAINS!" enticing the uneducated, the uninformed and the uncaring into buying processed and fatty, high carbohydrate, sugar-laden crap that is killing them early. Our eating habits remain, culturally, more a gorging.

Preying on us the likes of a woman radio figure, no trimster herself, turning Maori and poor people into a circus of beggars scrambling to find a $5000 diamond in one crumb of 10,000 marshmallows. Human sharks feast on poor brown people. Banks treat them with contempt.

Cigarettes have killed more of us than non-Maori. Then marijuana became an epidemic for Maori. Now meth and synthetic drugs have replaced it. The boozing culture was always there. You have to know this back story to understand the litany of Maori problems.

A lot is self-inflicted. Most is inherited behaviour. We need a bunch of cycle-breakers to change our direction. We need in equal doses education, more cuddles and cuddlies, less harsh put-down criticism, a healthy diet and healthy emotional environment for our kids to grow up in.