The results of a new survey are challenging the myth that New Zealanders use "Pakeha" as a derogatory term.

The large scale New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study, which surveys thousands of New Zealanders every year on a wide range of topics, found "no evidence whatsoever" that the term Pakeha reflected any negative attitudes towards New Zealanders of European descent.

Rather, the findings indicated that the choice by Maori to use the term was linked to how strongly they identify as Maori, said co-researcher Dr Carla Houkamau.

"The choice to use Te Reo is part of identity - rather than anything to do with Maori attitudes toward New Zealanders of European descent," she said.


The study was carried out by Houkamau, Dr Chris Sibley and Dr William Hoverd - all from the University of Auckland.

"Our data show that Maori who prefer the term Pakeha to other descriptions, such as 'New Zealand European', 'Kiwi', or 'New Zealander', tend to view their own ethnicity as a more central to their self-concept," said Sibley, who led the survey.

The survey asked a wide range of questions, from race relations to religious beliefs and personality types, said Houkamau.

News Zealanders of European descent were also found to display a generally warm attitude towards Maori, but those who referred to themselves as Pakeha held more positive views of Maori than those who opted for "New Zealander" or "New Zealand European".

"Our findings suggest that Europeans who prefer to use the term Pakeha to describe themselves, are likely expressing a desire to recognise a positive relationship with Maori," Sibley said.

Findings also showed that the use of the term "Pakeha" was low overall at 14 per cent, compared with "New Zealander" which was used by 50 per cent of those surveyed.

Of the total 6518 people surveyed, 1163 were Maori and 4618 New Zealanders of European descent.