Our new grandson has the ability to yank on my heart strings across 12,000 kilometres of ocean, just like his brother before him.

Though I have never met this latest one, the connection is strong if a little one-way at the moment.

Every photograph is a family treasure and we look for likenesses that absolutely convince us that he takes after one or other of his forebears on our side of his family tree.

Read more: Chester Borrows: You have to hunt where the ducks are
Chester Borrows: PM can juggle job and mum role
Chester Borrows: In the Stihl of the forest I saw an idea


There is no doubt that the Zamec family, my son's in-laws from Slovakia, do exactly the same thing.

We tend to look to pedigree to give relevance and context to those around us and this can be cruel or kind.

Speculation over the parentage of prominent people in the royal family is an example of cruelty, and yet, even in this so-called enlightened age, features among the favourite topics for gossip. In the end it is none of our business.

Lineage identifiers though are important in our culture because Kiwis love to join the dots and make associations. Wandering into a room full of strangers people look at name tags and then introduce themselves by inquiring after connections to the same surname, the same company or town. With only two degrees of separation it isn't long before everyone is getting on like a house on fire.

But question-marks over lineage and the opportunity to make some thread of connection more tenuous is a hobby for some and, like picking away at a scab, there is a guilty pleasure in witnessing the pain it can bring.

Many Pakeha love the opportunity to quantify the pedigree in fractions of ethnicity.
"He's only one-eighth Maori", for example, as if the dilution detracts from the integrity or worth of the individual.

Or the common statement that "there are hardly any full-blooded Maori these days," which is intended to support a preference for quashing any suggestion that tikanga has any relevance in the 21st century whatsoever.

The comment attributed to Sir Bob Jones that he "... knew Sir Tipene O'Regan before he was Maori ..." is an example.

These comments usually come from those clinging to some Scottish, Irish or English heritage long since diluted by our 180-year colonial gene-pool, which is now enhanced by immigrants from all corners of the world.

I find this practice abhorrent in a country where the vibrancy of multi-culturalism enhances our way of life and makes us truly unique.

I find it equally abhorrent when Maori seek to detract from other Maori by suggesting they aren't the real deal because of political affiliation or because of the lack of an ability to speak te reo or that they are not fully au fait with marae protocol.

Attacks on the new National Party leadership, Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett — both of them Maori —are a good example.

The New Zealand historian the late Michael King wrote books entitled Being Pakeha and Being Pakeha Now, which cleverly articulate what separates the Kiwi with European or Asian lineage from the rest of the world.

The identifiers are about resilience and the fact that New Zealand is an immigrant nation but also the influence of tikanga Maori in our culture as New Zealanders.

They bring into focus those things that bind us together rather than delineate on the basis of ethnicity.

They are things that make us proud to be Kiwi, that list our pedigree or whakapapa as a unique nation with a unique outlook that is not replicated anywhere else in the world.
Picking scabs only encourages infection and ends with pretty ugly results, but concentrating on those things that connect us makes for a strong community and a nation to be proud of.

Chester Borrows served as Whanganui MP for 12 years and as a minister in the National Government