Theme 2: 'One People'

The news media are not neutral or objective. Studies show that the news repeats and reinforces negative themes about Māori that date from the earliest days of colonisation.

This theme arose originally from struggles in Europe in the 1700s and 1800s. Together with Theme 1: Pākehā as the norm  and Theme 3: 'Rights', it represents New Zealand as a modern, liberal, social democracy, while also closing off other ways of looking at our society.

The ‘One People’ theme describes ‘New Zealanders’ as a single people who should all be treated the same. This is usually a response to attempts by Maori for recognition as tangata whenua.

How this is being said in the news
Kiwi, New Zealander, one people, equal treatment, we are all the same; no one group should have preference, we are a multicultural society, we are all immigrants.


  • “Maori have a special place in New Zealand, but that specialness should not be allowed to undermine the sanctity of the simple equality of all New Zealanders living together.” P. Goldsmith, NZ Herald column, April 2009.
  • “The justification for the Maori seats is now gone. It is a move that will signify one country, one people”. Timaru Herald editorial, Feb 7, 2003.
  • “Beaches for all”. Otago Daily Times front page headline, Aug 19, 2003
What does this assume?
  • Equality means treating everyone the same.
  • Cultural or racial differences are divisive, not real, or do not matter.
  • Indigenous status and the Treaty are irrelevant.
  • Majority rule is the only fair and just way to make decisions.
What does this do?
  • Supports Pākehā (ie. majority) control of most important decisions.
  • Tells Māori that they should assimilate.
  • Removes ethnicity from the discussion as irrelevant.
  • Undermines the Treaty.
Other ways to talk about this
  • Acknowledge the place of tangata whenua and the Treaty relationship.
  • Given the imbalances arising fromcolonisation, we may need to treat people differently to get more equal outcomes. This is provided for in New Zealand law anyway, for a range of different groups who are historically disadvantaged.
  • Pākehā are one cultural group among many.
Download all 14 themes in a booklet (landscape A4 pages)