Inside New Zealand’s growing right-wing movement against Maori ‘co-governance’

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Julian Batchelor may be the most hated man in New Zealand right now.
The evangelical author and former school principal leads a growing movement opposed to the country’s Maori “co-governance” model, attracting thousands of people to a series of packed events since the start of the year where the 65-year-old rails against what he calls “apartheid” and a “coup by stealth”.
Leading No campaigners including former Prime Minister Tony Abbott have tried to compare the Voice to Parliament to New Zealand’s co-governance – a suggestion rejected by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – and Mr Batchelor says he has been watching the debate “very closely”.
“Because it’s a mirror image of what’s happening over here, except we’re more advanced than you,” he said.
“Whatever you do, don’t vote Yes. It’s led to a disaster in New Zealand. We weren’t given a referendum, it’s been forced upon us. It’s led to widespread corruption – corruption of the media, corruption of the Treaty of Waitangi, our founding document, the passing of legislation by stealth, the birth of apartheid and racism and racial division. New Zealand at the moment is a country on its knees and it’s all because of the co-governance agenda pushed by our government for the last six years.”
In January, Mr Albanese stressed that the Voice was nothing like New Zealand’s co-governance model. “The fact is this is not a co-governance model at all,” he said. “It’s subservient to the parliament.” ‘Purely racist’
With New Zealand heading to the polls on October 14 – the same day as Australia’s Voice referendum – the “Stop Co-Governance” roadshow events have generated a flurry of media attention and counter-protests.
Mr Batchelor has been accused of racism, spreading harmful misinformation and associating with far-right and neo-Nazi figures.
He vehemently denies being racist. Asked about the presence at his events of former National Front organiser Chris McCabe and neo-Nazi Kyle Chapman, he said, “We don’t do background checks on people who come to help. We don’t have time for that.”
His inflammatory rhetoric has outraged Maori groups – he has reportedly described teaching children to speak Maori as child abuse, and likened the words “kia ora” to “heil Hitler”.
“What co-governance is in practice is ways of ensuring that Maori voices are heard and contribute to decision-making in public policy,” said Professor Dominic O’Sullivan from Charles Sturt University.
“While some people have raised reasonable objections to that, I don’t think Batchelor’s objections have any foundation in democratic principles or inclusion – they are purely racist.”
New Zealand’s Disinformation Project, an independent research group, has taken aim at Mr Batchelor’s claims in its 2023 election monitoring.
“The most common theme in disinformation is the idea that the government, backed by powerful ‘in groups’, are engaging in mass-scale deception of the public,” it said in a report last month.
The Disinformation Project said among the election “falsehoods” was the claim that “honouring the Treaty of Waitangi will take away the rights of non-Maori as part of a conspiracy between the government and a perceived group of ‘elites’”.

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