Thursday, September 2, 1999 Published at 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
Maori battle for equal rights
Maori have called for land compensation
By Emily Buchanan in New Zealand
Behind New Zealand's spectacular landscape lies an issue unresolved for 160 years. Some 95% of the land is owned by the descendants of white settlers while the indigenous people have been marginalised.
The Maori are now mobilising with calls for land compensation and even self-rule. Every year they demand the sovereignty rights promised under their founding treaty with Britain. And they even pull down the national flag and raise the Maori alternative.
Tame Iti of the Maori Sovereignty Movement says: "We want Maori total control, in that they are in control of their economy, in control of their land, in control of their politicians, their language and everything that is ours not be dictated by others".
Unemployed training schemes, for example, form part of the £3bn a year spent by the government on welfare for Maori. But Maori unemployment is still three times the national average. And poverty, violence and family break up are rising.
An unemployed trainee, Neil Biddle Huriwaka says: "The education system doesn't agree with the Maoris, we seem to fall through the gaps at the school. I don't know why that is. We use our hands and work off the land, and books and that don't agree with us".
From the sulphur springs of Rotorua, it's the Anglican Church which claims to have the answer. The leading bishop of its autonomous Maori branch, the Bishop of Aotearoa, the Right Reverend Te Whakahuihui Vercoe, has a vision of a new constitution with a separate Maori parliament. He claims New Zealand's democracy doesn't serve Maori interests.
In West Auckland, Maori are already experimenting with self government, running their own social services. Here they help the disadvantaged and the delinquent. Using their own culture, teachers pass on traditional skills to help protect youngsters from a life of crime.
For most New Zealanders, including senior government officials, the church's calls for Maori autonomy are rejected as unworkable.
Each year Maori re-live their warrior past. While many want them to forget their historical claims, today's chieftains will continue to press for more power and control over their own lives.