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Dr Bryce Edwards on NZ’s ethnic identity wars and Parliament’s toxic political climate

Summarised by Centrist 

University of Victoria at Wellington political analyst Dr Bryce Edwards says that New Zealand politics is increasingly marred by toxicity and disinformation.  This is particularly in debates about ethnicity, race, and racism. He writes that this disturbing trend undermines democracy, social cohesion, and political integrity. 

Te Pati Māori frequently engage in ethnic-based slurs and baseless claims to incite outrage in a unique strategy, which the media does not seem to allow any party on the political right to pursue the same way. 

A recent example involves Minister for Children Karen Chhour, who faces personal attacks over her efforts to repeal Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act. 

This section, introduced to uphold the Treaty of Waitangi principles for Māori children in care, has led to unintended consequences. Chhour argues it prioritises ethnicity over children’s welfare.

The opposition’s fierce debate in Parliament has highlighted Chhour’s identity as Māori, with Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime and Te Pati Māori delivering harsh criticisms. Te Pati Māori’s social media comments have been particularly severe, accusing Chhour of being disconnected from her Māori heritage.

Chhour has publicly addressed the personal pain these attacks cause. She says there is a need for stability and love in child care, regardless of race. Commentators like Heather du Plessis-Allan urged the media to hold Te Pāti Māori accountable and called out the double standards that allow the party to use incendiary rhetoric without facing major scrutiny from the press.

Read more over at Democracy Project

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