In any community formed from people of different cultural backgrounds, there will be different sets of values, which can be politically meaningful. Immigrants maintaining strong links with their country of origin may adhere to beliefs more common in those countries, and will take a greater interest in what is occurring ‘back home’ than will most New Zealanders. In the early 20th century Irish immigrants were concerned about Irish home rule. In the early 21st century many migrants from the Pacific Islands maintain strong family connections with their island of origin – Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and Tonga being the islands with the largest numbers of migrants in New Zealand. Their values of family loyalty lead them, in many cases, to make regular, substantial remittances (payments) to family members back home.
Māori political values
While Māori share many of the beliefs, attitudes and values of New Zealand’s wider political culture, their own experience as a community means that their views about New Zealand and its history, the state and government policies are not wholly identical with those of non-Māori New Zealanders. There are also differences within the Māori population, depending on, among other things, whether their forebears signed the Treaty of Waitangi, whether their tribal group or family suffered significant land confiscations, or whether their group has unresolved grievances.
The view that New Zealand’s number one priority is to honour the Treaty of Waitangi, held by many Māori (as well as many non-Māori), puts the unsecured rights of Māori, and the right to an honest application of treaty law and principles, above other issues and concerns. An alternative view, summarised by National Party leader Don Brash in 2004 (and stated by other politicians before and since), that the number one priority for New Zealand, if it is to move forward as a nation, is ‘one law for all’, represents a different set of values.
The existence in New Zealand of substantial numbers of migrants from a variety of backgrounds means that the idea of ‘multi-culturalism’ – celebrating the existence of many cultures – has become part of the vocabulary of New Zealand politics and the curriculum of New Zealand schools.
Immigrants and immigration
In any society there are inconsistencies and contradictions in people’s values and behaviour. From time to time New Zealand’s politicians have discovered that, at least briefly, support can be gained by raising concerns about levels of immigration and about the particular types of people being admitted to the country. Negative perceptions have sometimes been expressed towards Pacific Island migrants; Asian migrants (particularly Indians and Chinese) and Muslim immigrants. In general, since the later 20th century, antagonistic views about immigrants have been frowned upon by government spokespeople and state institutions, television news and mainstream newspapers, and within the education system. New Zealanders’ politeness, courtesy and sense of fairness have largely combined to overcome hostility towards newcomers.