C: Christoph Strassler / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

New Zealand is a Battleground Between Decolonisation and Re-colonisation

While the poster child of liberal democracy still maintains a “100% Pure” façade to the international press it’s a different story living in New Zealand.

Successive government policies over decades have torn the fabric of a society established on a ‘fair go’ and classless ethos by the Victorian diaspora who colonized it as a British utopia.

An Auckland farmer farewells Jacinda Ardern. Source: Twitter

International reactions to Ardern’s resignation were largely gushing, however she leaves with NZ’s unity at a post-war low ebb amid manifold ‘crises’:

The End of Utopia?

During her tenure The Kiwi Dream of equality of opportunity and homeownership has become a delusion as two distinct tiers of citizens are pitted against each other for generations to come:
  • Māori Vs non-Māori (aka. Pākehā)
  • Landowners Vs non-landowners
C: Wikipedia Commons

During her time in office, Labour’s politics (sometimes described as Woke) has openly prioritised the former, such as changing the name of the country to ‘Aotearoa’ in all official public services and communication, while quietly courting the latter by selling the country’s water, mines, forests to overseas investors and wooing ‘ultra-high net worth individuals’ to buy NZ residency.

The New Land Wars

Since the late 80s, particularly the infamous ‘87 stockmarket crash, kiwis went all in on property investment as a way to build wealth, which in the past decade turned to pure speculation just like the country’s 1890s Gold Rush.

Perhaps it’s a legacy mentality.

Over the same period, the government has been compensating Māori for the land forfeited to the Crown (or mistakenly signed over to the British) under the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Crown Tribunals continue making financial reparations and land reclamations.

C: Poster in the window of my local cinema in rural NZ put up by the business owner. Credit: Roe Jogan

From my Pakeha perspective — as a migrant married into a white kiwi farming family and working with small business owners — the government is now overcompensating in every aspect of Māori life in education, politics, culture, healthcare, business and tilting the playing field.

Thanks for reading Letters From Utopia! Subscribe for free to receive new posts.

To compensate Māori for their below average socio-economic standing the government has created many incentives in healthcare, education and business. For instance, Māori-owned businesses only pay half the corporate tax rate as non-Māori owned companies and these businesses are often favoured for government contracts.


Screenshot from NZ Companies Register documentation.


While the country has been one of the few (only?) colonial success stories, it is now caught between two opposing forces of decolonisation and re-colonisation.

The political pendulum has swung strongly towards the decolonisation under the current Labour government and will either swing aggressively back the opposite direction this election year (2023) or go further left.

What is Decolonisation?

The process of decolonisation in NZ has been underway in all but name for over a decade (here is a good primer you want to learn more about the process and ideology of decolonisation).

This includes the revision of recorded historical events in textbooks; revising the university curriculum; corporate diversity hiring; corporate apologies for colonial workplace culture; the preeminence of indigenous culture and language in all aspects of life from government communication and to kindergarten curriculum.

At the same time the country continues to be recolonised by Ultra High Net Worth Individuals from the US, EU and China who can buy residency for $10m. It is also being recolonised by the children and grandchildren of landowners, farmers and landlords (Pakeha) who are now inheriting a windfall of several generations of wealth — all completely untaxed.

This has created what one NZ economist calls a “new landed gentry” and an elite class of “opportunity hoarders”, described by another.

NZ even has its own growing MAGA movement and merch, popular among the rural folk and primary industries. Photo: Facebook

The safe haven where US billionaires build bunkers to hide out when Western civilisation collapses now faces the same social and economic decay as the US: soaring wealth inequality, rentier capitalism, declining education, a speculative housing bubble and wokeism/cancel culture in politics and education.

These factors have accelerated since the pandemic began.


The Future of Governance

From its colonial beginnings the country has been something of a social experiment in neoliberal economics and democracy. It is possible that any success stories here will give governments and central banks around the world new data points to base their plans on.
Often described as “progressive” NZ has a history of setting trends for liberal democracies: the first country to accord women voting rights; the first central bank to set an inflation target in its mandate; and, more recently, Jacinda Ardern became the world’s youngest female head of state and the most lionised politician in recent memory.

So influential is she that she even joined the league of the Nelson Mandela book club for leading with ”Kindness and Empathy”.

She was ordained a WEF Young Global Leader nearly a decade ago and she appears to be primed for a big role at the UN.

Aside from the Zero-Covid policy the NZ government has announced several grandiose “world-first policies “over the past year:

  • Neutral carbon emissions by 2030
  • Zero Road deaths by 2025
  • Zero tobacco sales by 2025



Criticised at home for being authoritarian and bloating a centralised bureaucracy it will be interesting to see if these world-first policies inspire other liberal beacons.

On another note, NZ along with Canada and Australia, are the first and furthest along the decolonisation trend and what’s happening here is a fascinating clash of Western and indigenous cultures will probably play out on all continents.


Roe Jogan is an expat working in New Zealand for the past decade with tech startups and major media companies. His newsletter Letters From Utopia documents the trajectory of New Zealand as a liberal utopia in the popular imagination – both past and present. His writing aims to debunk many of the myths perpetuated in the mainstream coverage of New Zealand. 

Share mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer mdi-chevron-left Prev Next mdi-chevron-right Related
Comments are closed

Do you support the Governments plans to put calorie labels on wine bottles?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...