I am a New Zealander.
I am so proud of our nation, our place in the world and our melting pot culture. We are not without history, both good and bad, but it is time to focus on our future, on the path that New Zealand is taking in the years ahead ...
We have reached a point where we are being asked to identify by ethnicity and not citizenship.
I am a New Zealander, Maori and a descendant of Anglo/Irish settlers who came here in the 1860s, but firstly a New Zealander.
Regardless of when we or our ancestors came here we have always known that our citizenship assures us equal recognition and representation before the law - but our government, our nation's leaders, are not allowing us to be one people.
We are being delivered separatism and an erosion of our democracy on the basis that this will redress historical issues and achieve an equality that we are expected to accept has not previously been available to Maori.
This is not true.
I have been privileged in my life to be raised at a time where I did not know that Maori ancestry deprived us of an opportunity to succeed, where we were not equal.
When I stood beside my grandfather while he worked his land in Whakapara, no one told me he was poor, that we were disadvantaged.
Despite the fact that, if he was assessed by today's standards, he would be deemed to be "in need," my grandfather, Honi Pani Tamati Waka Nene Davis, never considered that he was not equal and that he had been prevented from achieving economic prosperity.
What he did know was that he was responsible for his family, and he got up every morning and proudly took care of those who depended on him.
We were taught respect, we knew how to show empathy and we were never in any doubt about how much we had to be grateful for.
We knew where we had come from and that there was no limit to what we could become.
And there were no limits, but I suppose the difference was that there were definitely no handouts.
I vividly recall my brother, full of teenage arrogance, deciding that he would leave school and claim an unemployment benefit.
On finding this out my mother made him pay the money back. No child of hers was going to live on handouts when we were capable of working and succeeding.
From leaving school to work in an icecream parlour, through a range of industries, to the police (leaving as a detective sergeant), vice-president of the New Zealand Police Association, to my current position as general manager of a building services company ... at no time have I ever encountered barriers or restrictions either for my race or my gender.
I have observed that when in a position of being equally qualified to my peers my ethnicity and gender have been an advantage, and I defy anyone to dispute that point.
Never in my lifetime have I seen an instance where being a Maori has been a disadvantage. It has also never been an excuse for lack of achievement.
We are so frequently told that there is a need to make special allowance and extra compensation to those with Maori ancestry, because without this we will not see Maori succeed.
This rationale is flawed, and any special allowance that is based upon when your ancestors arrived in New Zealand is, at its core, racist and separatist.
For those who try to tell me that this special allowance is needed for Maori to achieve equality, then I stand here today to tell you that you insult me, you patronise my heritage, and most importantly you deprive the generations ahead of us of an inherent belief that anything is possible.
Somewhere along the way the Treaty of Waitangi, established to provide equal recognition and opportunity to all New Zealanders, has become the mechanism by which division and disempowerment are the stock in trade - a runaway train that is gathering momentum, channelling increasing amounts of money to frequently self-appointed representatives with virtually no benefit being distributed to those with genuine need.
I defer to the very wise words of Sir Apirana Ngata from a speech he delivered in 1940:
"....... What is there in the treaty that the Maori can today celebrate wholeheartedly with you? Let me say one thing: Clause 1 of the treaty handed over the mana and the sovereignty of New Zealand to Queen Victoria and her descendants forever.
That is the outstanding fact today. That but for the shield of the sovereignty handed over to her Majesty and her descendants I doubt whether there would be a free Maori race in New Zealand today.
"Let me acknowledge further that in the whole of the world I doubt whether any native race has been so well treated by a European people as the Maori of New Zealand ..."
I wonder how Sir Apirana would reflect on the situation now.
New Zealand is being divided. The country that was founded on unity and inclusion, the country that was the first to give women the vote, is being divided by a vocal minority that has made it impossible to even have the conversation about the issues of equality and unity without being labelled racist ...
I have been told so many times that the reason for the challenges that seem to be confronting Maori is due to grievances that occurred over the last 175 years.
We are asked to believe that Maori are so poorly represented in all the worst statistics due to racial disadvantage and prejudice. It is never about poor personal choices and lack of responsibility or accountability.
The strongest message we are bombarded with is that there needs to be a putting "right," to make amends, but this isn't being done through creating opportunity but through separatist legislation, erosion of our democracy, and lastly handing over money without any condition or control on how it should be used ...
It makes me glad that my grandparents are not around to hear Maori leaders promote that it is okay to expect less of Maori, it is okay to offer no accountability, no responsibility, it is okay to excuse failure and lack of pride and motivation because of a history that has long since been put right.
The strongest message from so many is that Maori have been failed, deprived, held back.
This is not true. All that is being created by a vocal minority is a demotivating sense of entitlement and mounting resentment.
No matter who you are, what your ancestry is or what country you call home, if your government, if your legislation, if your society continues to send a clear message that you cannot achieve because of some vague, undefined and frequently imaginary barriers then you will never achieve. Why would you even try?
Maori have succeeded, and continue to succeed, in academia, arts, business, media, politics. To continue to claim special representation is needed is patronising, divisive and counterproductive ...
In the powerful words of another respected and accomplished Maori leader, Sir Peter Buck: "Beware of separatism. The Maori can do anything the Pakeha can do, but in order to achieve this we must all be New Zealanders first."