FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Equal Citizens of the Nation

The 24 of you demonstrate the incredible diversity of nationalities helping to mould the identity of a 21st century New Zealand. Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy

Another National Day

By Roger Childs

One more Waitangi Day has been and gone. The antics of what happens at the place where a fewNew Zealanders signed the Treaty 177 years ago, is a bore for most Kiwis, but the public holiday is most welcome.

It would be interesting to know what proportion of the population actually reflected on the meaning of the day on the 6th and took part in the various community activities which were organised.

However, one very positive event on Waitangi Day, was the citizenship ceremony at Government House. 24 people from 17 countries officially became New Zealand citizens.

Discriminating who can come?

The welcoming symbol for immigrants in New York harbor

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! Emma Lazarus in 1883

Like the Americans we are a nation of immigrants. However unlike the American government we take people from any country. As the poem on the Statue of Liberty states, the United States has long been a nation for people wanting a fresh start. Tens of millions flowed in, mainly from Europe and Britain, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Nevertheless, in the 1920s the government decided to introduce quotas for particular countries.

However only in very recent times have there been restrictions on people of a specific religion and from particular countries immigrating.

In New Zealand we have a quota on refugees, which many regard as very inadequate, but we don’t discriminate on the basis of religion or country of origin.

However money talks, as the recent case of the American billionaire has shown. Promising to  bring plenty of investment to New Zealand and create jobs is a big help – so welcome Citizen Thiel!

Ethnicity and equality

For a short time in the mid 1970s our national day was called New Zealand Day, and with the widespread apathy towards celebrating the Treaty of Waitangi, maybe serious consideration should be given to restoring that name. The Australians and Canadians name their day after the nation. We have a very cosmopolitan country and we should celebrate that ethnic diversity.

New Zealanders all!

Like the United States we are “nation of immigrants” either literally as arrivals from other parts of the world, or descended from settlers who came from the Pacific, Britain, Europe, America, Asia, Africa and South America. Regardless of when our ancestors arrived, we are all equally important.

All people of British or European descent and Maori, have mixed ethnic origins, more so that Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Pacific Island migrants who have arrived over the last century. When considering Who do we think we are? all our ancestors are important, regardless of our present ethnicity if we choose to have one.

However what we have in common is being Kiwis or New Zealanders, the latter term being the one the British authorities and missionaries often used to describe the Maori people in the early decades of the 19th century.

So the 24 people who were sworn as citizens of New Zealand last week, are now Kiwis like the rest of us. As the Governor General put it:

Your culture, skills, talents and knowledge enrich our nation … we make a commitment to  you – to befriend you, to  support you and help you make this a place we can all truly call our home.