Former US President Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is a fragile thing and it’s never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation.”

The fight for freedom in New Zealand has now reached a critical juncture. After six years of Labour’s increasingly authoritarian restrictions on our freedoms and democratic rights, unwinding their agenda will be a major challenge for the new Government. 

The recent postponement of a ‘freedom of speech’ event planned for Victoria University to discuss how to have a discussion about free speech, is indicative of the enormity of the problem we face.

Universities used to be bastions of free expression. Students said what they thought, not giving a toss if anyone was “offended”. Those who took umbrage either fought back or sucked it up.

But nowadays, those who seek to restrict the free expression of others, have the upper hand. Being offended is now a trigger for restrictions, censorship, even cancellation.

In the case of Victoria University, in spite of 600 people registering to attend a debate on how to have respectful discussions about free speech, claims that some students felt threatened by the inclusion of free speech advocates in the lineup of speakers prevented it going ahead.

That irony did not escape Vice-Chancellor Professor Nic Smith, who said: “Paradoxically, the mere framing of this event has surfaced a depth of feeling and a polarisation of views on how we should proceed, that has made it challenging to even schedule a conversation about how to have challenging conversations.”

To his credit, the Vice-Chancellor has re-scheduled the debate on ‘The role of universities in supporting freedom of speech’ for later this month, with a new format adding more speakers to reduce the claimed ‘threat’: “We will bring a full discussion with a whole diversity of views. It will be done with the kind of scrutiny that universities have done for many years and it’s going to be important that we are prepared to listen to things that we may find uncomfortable rather than decide – a priori – that certain groups need to be protected or held back from things that they might hear which I think is a rather patronising position.”

But the bigger question is, how is it that activist groups now call the shots and can hold large institutions to ransom?

This incident is, in fact, symptomatic of a far wider malaise infecting our society. New Zealand, like most other Western countries, has become victim to the ‘capture’ of our institutions by social justice advocates pushing identity politics. With a focus on the so-called ‘oppressed’ groups in society centred on gender, race, and sexuality – their aim is to transform government organisations into agents of ideological change.

Requiring the State Sector to classify and prioritise people on the basis of group identities instead of helping everyone equally regardless of background, is abhorrent.

Yet that’s exactly what Labour expediated.

In true Orwellian style, their dangerous intent was disguised by the relatively benign-sounding requirement for State institutions to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as the Treaty of Waitangi. 

But in the tertiary sector those requirements were captured by extremists and expanded into vast social engineering networks: Victoria University’s framework can be seen HERE, Auckland University’s HERE, and Otago University’s HERE.

As a result, their radical cultural indoctrination has now infiltrated all areas of university life, including recruitment, teaching, learning and research, restricting freedom and limiting opportunity.

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator, Emeritus Professor of Engineering and a former Pro Vice-Chancellor John Raine warns of the destabilising effects these social justice demands are now having on tertiary education:

“In the tertiary sector specifically, a critical issue for universities throughout the Western world, has been an ideological shift away from institutional political neutrality, and a focus on teaching and research excellence, towards the critical social justice (CSJ) politics of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). DEI agendas focus mostly on race and gender identity issues and have become, ironically, oppressive and exclusionary. This shift has been fostered in New Zealand by the Ministry of Education, and in research funding by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. DEI activism in our universities is an aggravating factor in their present financial difficulties.  

“CSJ activism has led to a loss of freedom of speech and of academic freedom more widely within universities in the Western World, self-censoring of research journals to avoid giving offence to a particular identity group, and, worst of all, widespread career-damaging cancellation or even loss of employment for staff who speak out against the overbearing nature of institutional DEI policies. New Zealand academic staff have not been immune from this.”

And when it comes to the Treaty of Waitangi – or ‘te Tiriti o Waitangi’ as they like to call it – Professor Raine describes how it has been weaponised: “In New Zealand, CSJ politics have been demonstrated through the universities declaring themselves te Tiriti-led and incorporating Te Ao Maori as a dominant culture.  This situation has caused a de facto politicisation of the sector, and the introduction within science programmes of matauranga Maori courses (to become mandatory in 2025 in at least one university) is moving these institutions away from open inquiry and debate to places where some taught material that includes aspects of myth, vitalism, and animism, cannot be questioned. Such an environment leads to a culture of indoctrination, which should have no place in a university.”

To understand how this radicalised Treaty agenda has been forced onto our universities, we need to cast our minds back to 2018, when the Ardern Labour Government established the Office for Maori Crown Relations. In the Cabinet paper setting up the agency, the Minister Kelvin Davis signalled that it would empower iwi to effectively co-govern the country: “I expect people will ask how the Iwi Chairs Forum fits within the new engagement framework. The type of relationship being sought by the Forum appears to be one where the government recognises the Forum as a Treaty partner with equal decision-making rights.”

And that’s how it rolled out. Labour’s aim was to transform the public service to deliver the empowerment of iwi along with their other social justice objectives.

A search of the legislation that regulates the education sector, the Education and Training Act 2020, for key terms associated with Labour’s ideological agenda reveals “diversity” is mentioned 15 times, “inclusion” once, “equity” 6 times, “Waitangi” 39 times, and “Maori” 205 times! 

In other words, as a result of the Office for Maori Crown Relations facilitating a partnership with iwi leaders, the education system has been re-prioritised to deliver race-based indoctrination. As a result, the focus is now on Maori rights, Maori language, and Maori culture — with Matauranga or Maori ‘knowledge’ described as science, Tikanga or Maori custom described as law, and Te Ao Maori or a Maori world view dominating.

The legislation specifies that the responsibility for imposing this radical agenda onto the country’s early childhood centres, schools, and tertiary institutions, rests with their Boards.

But by early 2021, as Labour began to advance their unmandated He Puapua agenda to empower iwi and replace democracy with tribal rule, progress in education was clearly not fast enough.

Through Letters of Expectation — a non-legislative mechanism used by Ministers to provide directives to the Boards of the organisations under their stewardship to ensure compliance with Government objectives — then Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, was able to instruct educational agencies like the Tertiary Education Commission to prioritise their radicalised Treaty agenda: “I am writing to convey the Government’s priorities for the education system, and my expectations for your role in achieving these. I expect the Board and TEC to honour and give effect to the Crown’s Te Tiriti responsibilities. This means bringing Te Tiriti to the forefront of the Education and Training Act…”

The Tertiary Education Commission embraced the directive explaining in their Statement of Performance, “Through our stewardship and monitoring role for tertiary education we will ensure that all tertiary education organisations are giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a condition of their funding and delegated roles and powers from the Crown… We’ll honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and work in partnership to meet the needs and aspirations of Māori learners. We’ll also embed Te Ao Māori in our work and strengthen Matauranga Māori in the system.”

From that point on, instead of academic excellence and achievement being the primary focus of education, it became Maori rights and the Treaty.

But Labour’s race-based assault wasn’t confined to education.

Using Letters of Expectation Labour’s Ministers were able to put He Puapua into effect, away from the spotlight of public scrutiny, transforming institutions into agents of radical indoctrination.

Under their directives and through the influence of the Office for Maori Crown Relations, virtually every government organisation was required to prioritise the Treaty and Maori interests.

Such requirements are now endemic. From the Real Estate Authority to the Fire Service, even Antarctica New Zealand, acknowledging the Treaty, establishing partnerships with Maori, and demanding staff undergo cultural re-training are now standard practice.

What’s more worrying is that some Ministers seem unaware of just how radicalised their departments have become. A recent Ministry for the Environment report on Coastal Hazards that was signed off by the new Minister, is indicative:

“Applying a te ao Māori lens and implementing Māori values are essential to managing and adapting to the impacts of climate change for Aotearoa. Applying a te ao Māori lens means developing adaptation responses in partnership with Māori, elevating te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori in the adaptation process and empowering Māori in adaptation planning for Māori by Māori… Empowering Māori gives them autonomy over the management of natural resources.”  

The new Government has identified a raft of measures to address what is in effect a cultural takeover of our institutions. In their Coalition agreements, they committed to “remove co-governance from the delivery of public services.”

They plan to “conduct a comprehensive review of all legislation (except Treaty settlements) that includes ‘The Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi’, either replacing all such references with specific words relating to the relevance and application of the Treaty, or repealing the references.”

They also intend to “issue a Cabinet Office circular to all central government organisations that it is the Government’s expectation that public services should be prioritised on the basis of need, not race, within the first six months of Government.”

The Coalition’s overarching aim is to “reverse measures taken in recent years which have eroded the principle of equal citizenship.”

While these words are admirable, promises achieve nothing. If the Coalition Government is to distinguish itself from the previous Labour administration that promised everything and delivered nothing, it needs to do more.

The problems they face now reach into all corners of Government — including the Judiciary, which is now planning to introduce Maori cultural indoctrination in the form of ‘tikanga’ into our common law, in spite of the fact that doing so will undermine the Rule of Law.

Tinkering around the edges will not be enough. A legislative solution is now needed.

The original Public Service legislation, passed into law in 1912, contained no references to Maori or the Treaty, nor did it contain any social engineering. Instead, the legislation was colourblind and free of indoctrination.

Isn’t this where New Zealand’s future lies?

As President Reagan said, freedom is fragile and must be defended. Wouldn’t a colourblind clause in the current Public Service Act 2020, removing all references to race and the Treaty, assist in defending our freedom and ensuring the institutional foundations that have been put in place to facilitate the iwi takeover of New Zealand are dismantled?

New Zealanders should be treated equally before the law without regard to race, gender, sexuality, or any other group identity. Surely that’s the direction in which this country now needs to head.

This article was originally published on New Zealand Centre for Political Research ( on May 10, 2024.

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