Blaming colonisation and racism for the problems of Māori is the main roadblock to further progress, says the author of the groundbreaking novel Once Were Warriors.
In a new book out next week, A Conversation With My Country, Alan Duff takes aim at "so-called experts" spouting "white liberal irrelevancies".
He says political correctness prevents proper discussion and that ditching a narrative that labels Māori as victim and non-Māori as oppressor is necessary for the country to move forward.
Although injustices from colonisation are real, he says, an incessant focus on that obscures the problems that need to be addressed to help the most disadvantaged.
Duff lists these as the lack of good parenting, books and education, which he says leads to welfare dependency, drugs, alcohol abuse, gangs, prison and, sometimes, premature death.
Duff is the son of a scholarly Pākehā father and a violent Māori mother who was his model for the character Jake Heke in his confronting first book.
His new book comes 29 years later and 18 months after he returned to New Zealand from a decade living in France.
He has found a lot to like, he told the Weekend Herald this week. Māori have made vast and rapid progress and the country has embraced Māori culture.
That Māori make up nearly a quarter of MPs "makes us the most successful colonised indigenous people in history", he says.
"[Māori] have done extraordinarily well with settlement money. There's a lot more Māori in the All Blacks. I like that."
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But while that added up to a growing confidence and self esteem, persistent problems including domestic violence and a greatly disproportionate presence in rates of crime and imprisonment remained because of a persistent dysfunctional core.
"There is still an urgency," says Duff. "For the majority [of Māori], we are through the worst of it. But the problem of that entrenched welfare class has got to be addressed."
"[Welfare] creates entitlement but let's hasten to add that it does the same to bank CEOs."
Those on the dole should, for example, be paid extra for doing programmes aimed at turning them into a taxpayer.
Duff, who describes himself as "pro-business and anti-corporate", said liberals and academics had become apologists and were part of the problem.
"If they cared, they would come and visit us, all the decile one and two and three schools, and hear the views of the people. They are nowhere to be seen.
"My challenge [to them] is to step aside and let us solve our own problems.
"We need people from the coalface or the flax-roots to address the problem. There are Māori business people and women in particular who are doing great work which is unheralded."
He says more initiatives are needed like Duffy Books In Homes, a charitable organisation which has distributed 12 million books since Duff started it in 1994.
Duff says that, while his new book is "strong" he doesn't think it is controversial. "I don't set out to be controversial."
• A Conversation With My Country will be released next week.