The European New Zealander, or Pakeha, preferring to feel that relations between his own race and the Maori are on a thoroughly satisfactory basis, is in the habit of claiming that there is no colour bar. The claim is not wholly valid. All other things being equal, Pakehas receive preference when it comes to obtaining employment or lodging, and complaints are sometimes heard that Maoris are discouraged from patronising certain hotels. In 1939 Maoris formed approximately one-twentieth of the total population. Today they form approximately one-fifteenth. Their increase, which is likely to continue, may have the effect of putting to the test the claim that no colour bar exists.
For three-quarters of a century or more, after European settlement first began, the two races were engaged in a struggle, violent and otherwise, for the possession of a vital bone of contention. The Europeans wanted land to hold as individuals, to settle upon and farm with modern methods. The Maoris wanted to keep their lands under the old tribal system. They were neither able nor specially willing to use these lands to the best advantage, nor would they sell areas large enough to satisfy the Pakeha. The ensuing deadlock was broken by war and confiscation, after which the process of native dispossession was continued by purchase. Resentment smouldered among the Maori people and at length a national revival known as the Young Maori Movement inspired the race with fresh courage in its struggle to survive the impact of civilisation by learning how to profit from what civilisation had to offer. As time went on the Pakeha began to review his governments' past conduct with a more critical eye, and in consequence considerable sums of money were paid to various tribes to compensate them for the lands they had lost through confiscation. More important still, the State began to sponsor plans for Maori welfare, for land settlement, better education, and better housing. But long before they could derive advantage from these benefits, the Maoris had already, from one cause and another, lost the greater part of their lands. The 10 million acres remaining to them in 1891 had been reduced to five million in 1919, and today the figure stands at approximately four million. Meanwhile their numbers have almost trebled in the past 40 years, and calculation shows that their remaining lands can only support a small and ever-diminishing proportion of their total population as farmers and farm hands. City life attracts them and, as they can easily find employment in the towns, a migration thither is taking place. At present they find employment mainly in the unskilled occupations, and until they can be induced to avail themselves more fully of secondary and higher education it is scarcely possible that a larger proportion of them should find their way into white collar occupations. The difficulty of adjusting themselves to unaccustomed surroundings is largely responsible for their many troubles. Maoris who abandon their time-honoured way of communal rural life to become city dwellers are faced with the challenge of novel conditions. That this challenge should meet with an adequate response is a matter of grave importance, not only to the Maoris but also to all the people of New Zealand.
by Randall Mathews Burdon, M.C. (1896–1965), Author, Wellington.
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