New Zealand: The Long and Winding Road towards Equality

New Zealand. We reach a country ‘on the other side of the earth’ (seen from our home country) after eleven hours onboard a plane from South America. Friendly and helpful people walk around the streets of Auckland in their ‘flip flops’. Everything in the largest city of New Zealand looks ‘very British’. The appearance of houses and menus underpin New Zealand’s linkage with Britain and its belonging to the Commonwealth.

We hire a camper van and travel around the northern and southern islands of New Zealand. The radio plays native band “Fat Freddys Drop” and their latest song „life is for living“. Indeed, stress can be left behind by discovering the country’s untouched scenery and unique vegetation. That’s on reason why New Zealanders are very proud of their realm, and often ask tourists to warm up as well. New Zealand – the ideal place to live? Many people who moved to New Zealand tell, that everyday life is not as beautiful as a holiday trip may suggest. After having left behind the significant barriers of immigration, new citizens often find it difficult to become part of the local

community and to deal with the loneliness of the country. 80 year old George, who came to New Zealand from Britain fifty years ago, tells me: „Even for me, it’s sometime far too quiet here.“

Bilingual road signs point towards the history of New Zealand: before British sailors discovered (and conquered) the island, it was dominated by another culture – the Maori. They arrived in New Zealand a thousand years ago, long before the Europeans. Today, only 15 per cent of the population is Maori. After their influence declined, following the European settling, and their cultural identity broke up, the Maori have recently started to rediscover their cultural roots – and also the ‘new New Zealanders’ are more and more interested in the habits of their country’s aboriginal inhabitants. That’s why white fans cheer for Maori rugby teams and start learning the Maori language at school. Following the government’s bi-cultural politics, Whites and Maori are supposed to live, work and reside together and have the right to maintain their respective identities.

During our trip to New Zealand, we realised that New Zealanders think they are close to an equal society. But some facts may challenge this perception. For example, many Maori do not find a well-paid job, and have to work as supermarket cashiers or room cleaners. Income statistics reveal: Maori earn about 20 percent less compared to white New Zealanders. But then, this is a reality for almost each ethnic minority worldwide.