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Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays

[Under Pressure to Integrate: I]

page 100

The most striking feature of the Maori situation seventeen years after the end of the war is the continued existence, within the welfare state, of rural enclaves of material poverty and, in city and country, spiritual insecurity. It is from these that the current vexed problems derive, determined as they are by acts of history and complicated by European preconceptions of desirable norms of behaviour and the terms of racial co-existence.1

Some bald statistics will illustrate my claim. In 1956 the average income for a Maori head of a household was nearly £200 less than for a non-Maori: the position is probably no different today. The money has to go further: in a sample of 24 forestry-town households Jane Ritchie found (in 1956) a median annual income of £85 per head; £41 in one household.2 The 1956 census showed that 8 in 100 Maori males earned £900+ (17 non-Maoris), that 41 in 100 earned less than £500 (17 non-Maoris). This is not greatly affected by the higher proportion of Maori youths, since there are comparatively few Maoris in low-paid apprenticeships.

In 1939 the Under-Secretary for Native Affairs could say that at least half of the Maori population were inadequately housed, that 'hundreds and hundreds of Maoris are living under appalling conditions'.3 The 1956 census estimated that 30 per cent of Maoris live in 'grossly over-crowded conditions'. In 1936, a third of Maori dwellings consisted of one or two rooms; in 1956, a seventh. One can still say that hundreds and hundreds of Maoris are living under conditions, which, if not so appalling as twenty-three years ago, would appal most pakehas. 40 out of 100 Maori dwellings in 1956 had neither bath nor shower, 48 no piped water, 50 no hot water, 67 no flush toilet, 80 no refrigerator or washing-machine. (The pakeha figures for the last three are 17, 44 and 41.) One may argue that these page 101 amenities are not ends in themselves; one must agree that it is undesirable that so many of a minority group should be without what so many of the majority group have. Further, most Maori houses are overcrowded: the average Maori house in 1956 had 3.9 rooms and 5.6 people, the average non-Maori house 4.7 rooms and 3.6 people; 50 per cent more occupants and 17 per cent fewer rooms, and the rooms themselves are smaller than in pakeha houses.

It is hardly surprising that most Maori incomes leave little for the maintenance of such houses, let alone (without assistance) the building of new ones. Or that such derelict, overcrowded shacks, with bad sanitation and careless disposal of refuse, should make personal cleanliness difficult and should produce a high incidence of disease and a death-rate much higher in most illnesses than the pakeha. H. G. Turbott's 1935 survey of disease in Waiapu County showed greatly higher death-rates in tuberculosis, respiratory diseases, diarrhoea and enteritis, and typhoid fever: in 1960 medical statisticians could say: 'All the evidence available at the present time points to the fact that no very great improvement has taken place in the comparative health standards of the Maori as opposed to the European during the course of the intervening quarter-century.'4 Though the crude death-rate of Maoris is slightly lower than for pakehas, when adjustments are made for the different age-structure of the Maori population, the death-rate is roughly twice as high and in the younger age-groups roughly three times as high: and expectation of life for a Maori male almost 12 years less than for a pakeha, and for a female 15 years less. Tuberculosis kills Maori men at 12 times the rate of pakehas, and women 19 times; rheumatic heart disease 5 times; hepatitis 4 times; the Maori death-rate is higher for cancer, measles, hydatids, pneumonia, kidney disease, pregnancy complications, rheumatic fever, as well as for accidents and homicide. The only diseases where Maori mortality is lower are polio and ulcers of the stomach and duodenum. Infant mortality is particularly high. Children under five are particularly susceptible to dysentery, whooping-cough, meningitis, influenza, pneumonia, enteritis and anaemia, and die too frequently from accidents. Forty times as many children die proportionately from heart disease as pakeha children.

Apart from the deaths, the sickness rate of the living is too high. Besides the children's diseases already mentioned, children suffer frequently from scabies and impetigo, and from discharging ears which are neglected (because, I am told, the mothers' grapevine has not yet caught up with the possibility of cure by anti-biotics) and result in the high proportion of Maori children in schools for the deaf: a survey of Murupara in January 1962 showed an eighth of the children as deaf. Anaemia is common in older children; and adults, according to Dr Gollan Maaka, suffer from gum and tooth troubles resulting from starchy foods and lack of oral hygiene, obesity, chest trouble, rheumatism, cancer and tuberculosis. Women, page 102 according to Dr Rina Moore, develop heart disease and foot trouble, from poor shoes and overweight.

In spite of these disabilities, as is well known, the population is increasing and especially in the fertile and potentially fertile age-groups. Between 1936 and 1945, it increased by 21.5 per cent; since the war by 71 per cent, from 100,044 to 171,523 (as at last December). The birth-rate (46.41 per 1000) is almost twice as high as for the pakeha (25), and the rate of natural increase (37.57 per 1000 in 1958) is not only more than twice as high as for the pakeha (16.26) but is apparently higher than that of Western Samoa and has been described by a demographer as not only 'amongst the highest in any country of the world today'5 but probably as high as for any people in any period of history. Borrie projects a population of 310,000 within the next twenty years. Of the present population, 57.5 per cent are under 20, and only 3.6 per cent over 60.

It is these facts which, in conjunction with past acts of policy, have determined a number of current vexed questions: the migration to the towns and cities in search of employment, and the consequent increase in contact or contiguity with Europeans; fragmentation of land inheritances; a greater effort on the part of government departments to promote what is called 'integration'; the increase in crime; the uncertain future of the Maori language; changes in patterns of leadership; comparatively poor educational achievement and insecurity of employment; a greater testing of our professions of racial goodwill.

1 For background to this article I am indebted to three or four dozen papers and articles too numerous to name, and to conversation with Bruce Biggs, Pat Hohepa, Hugh Kawharu. B. Kernot, Joan Metge, Erik Schwimmer and Matiu te Hau. I am also indebted to I.L.G. Sutherland's assessment of the Maori situation in 1951, published in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, 1952; to the 'Rakau Studies' by Victoria University of Wellington psychologists; and to David P. Ausubel's Maori Youth. My own claim to be able to present as far as possible a Maori point of view is six years' close association with Maori students, and my attendance at the young leaders' conferences organised by the Auckland Council of Adult Education in the Auckland and Hawkes Bay Provinces since 1959. There was a national conference in Auckland in 1959; regional conferences in 1960 at Turangawaewae marae, Whakatane, Gisborne and Kaitaia; in 1961 at Tauranga-Taupo, Whakarewarewa and Wairoa. I have not seen the reports of similar conferences at Christchurch Marton and Waitara.

I have doubled long vowels in Maori words except those in everyday use in English such as Maori and pakeha, and names of places and persons.

2 Ritchie, Jane, Childhood in Rakau, Wellington 1957, p. 26.

3 Report of Young Maori Conference, Auckland, May 1939, p. 18.

4 Maori-European Standards of Health, Department of Health, Wellington 1960, p. 4.

5 Borrie, W.D., 'Some Economic and Social Implications of Maori Population Growth in New Zealand', Journal of the Polynesian Society, December 1961, p. 410.