Red Noise: Should RNZ Be Promoting “Progressive” Causes?


THAT RICH, OLD, WHITE PEOPLE dominate decision-making in New Zealand hardly qualifies as news. Having taken barely a quarter-of-a-century to dispossess its indigenous Maori inhabitants; rich, old, white people set about creating a society and an economy in their own image. In terms of whose views count, the New Zealand of today differs only marginally from the New Zealand of 150 years ago. Why, then, was RNZ moved to produce “White Noise”?

The tag-line for RNZ journalist Kate Newton’s investigation summed it up nicely: “It’s our most culturally diverse city, but older, wealthier, Pakeha people have the loudest voice when it comes to shaping the city’s future.” What follows is a series of geographical, social and statistical vignettes featuring four Auckland suburbs: Devonport, St Helliers, Avondale and Mangere. Emerging from Newton’s examination of the data is the entirely unsurprising conclusion that older, richer and whiter Aucklanders forward more submissions to Auckland Council than anybody else.

The truly intriguing question arising out of Newton’s “White Noise” (reported in depth on RNZ’s Morning Report of 21/1/19) is: How did the national public broadcaster expect its listeners to respond? Were they supposed to be shocked and horrified at this prima facie case of white privilege? Were RNZ’s listeners (a very large percentage of whom will be older, richer and whiter than the average Kiwi) supposed to be wracked with guilt? Were Auckland listeners, in particular, expected to contact their local board members and/or councillors and demand that something be done to counteract this all-too-obvious racism?

The answer could very easily be “Yes” to all of the above. One of the people Newton turns to for “expert” commentary on the findings of her investigation is Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw, currently a senior associate at Victoria University of Wellington’s Institute for Governance and Policy Studies. The Institute’s website describes Berentson-Shaw as a “researcher, writer and communicator, interested in the values that inform the development and implementation of evidence-based policy”. The Institute is not, however, the only body with which Berentson-Shaw is associated. She is also the co-director of a “think and work tank” called “The Workshop”. This collection of high-powered social activists describes its vision as: “a more inclusive New Zealand” driven by “compassion and manaakitanga to others”. Exactly the sort of group to take umbrage at the fact that rich, old, white people are exercising a disproportionate degree of influence over the future direction of Auckland and (presumably) the rest of Aotearoa-New Zealand.

In Newton’s posting on the RNZ website, Berentson-Shaw is described simply as a “public policy researcher”. Her co-directorship of “The Workshop” is not mentioned, nor is there any reference to the latter’s unabashed enthusiasm for thinking about and working towards radical social and economic change in New Zealand society. Newton’s failure to fully inform her readers about Berentson-Shaw’s political mission casts a worrisome shadow across the entire “White Noise” investigation.

Also absent from Newton’s investigation is any significant reference to the decisive relationship between social class and political power. Her readers are asked to focus on the ethnicity, age and household income of those participating in the Auckland Council’s consultation process. Unexplored were such factors as whether those participants were unskilled wage-workers or salaried professionals. Closely related factors, such as levels of educational attainment, were similarly neglected.

These are significant omissions. Not least because had social class and educational attainment been the focus of Newton’s study, then it is entirely possible that instead of old, rich, white people emerging as the villains of the piece, the culprits would have turned out to be self-interested members of the highly-educated middle- and upper-classes. Viewed through this lens, the degree of exclusion of ethnic communities would have taken on a very different aspect. Indeed, it would almost certainly have confirmed that people’s political influence is principally determined by their position in the socio-economic hierarchy – not by their age and/or ethnicity.

TDB Recommends

This conclusion may have been considerably harder to sell, however, than one fixing the blame on old, rich, white people. For a start, class and conflict go together in a way that leaves precious little room for inclusion, compassion or manaakitanga. Should a radical resetting of Auckland City’s priorities ever be undertaken in the way Newton’s “expert witnesses” suggest, then it would entail a profound redistribution of municipal resources away from the leafy suburbs and towards the city’s poorest and most marginalised communities. To believe that Auckland’s upper- and middle-classes would sit idly by while this was happening is fanciful in the extreme. The very skills and advantages identified (and implicitly condemned) in Newton’s posting would be turned instantaneously to the task of bringing such a redistributive exercise to a shuddering halt.

It would not be a pretty process. The ugly intent of protecting class privilege would be carefully masked in the populist rhetoric of racial defence. Not all of Auckland’s ethnic communities would opt to identify with the poor and the brown. Nor would the rest of New Zealand. One has only to recall the fate of Labour’s “Closing The Gaps” initiative; or the extraordinary reaction to Don Brash’s Orewa Speech; to appreciate the political fragility of Newton’s optimistic assumptions.

The closest “White Noise” comes to anticipating this kind of push-back is in its description of Old, Rich and White Auckland’s jeering dismissal of “Generation Zero’s” vocal endorsement of the Auckland Unitary Plan in 2016. Newton describes an incident in which the representatives of this highly articulate group of young professionals found themselves under attack in a hall filled with elderly white property-owning opponents of the Plan. That naked self-interest could express itself with such shameless antagonism clearly came as a shock to these youthful champions of progressive urban design.

The core mission of change agents such as “The Workshop”, “Generation Zero” and, one suspects, journalists like Newton herself, is to find a way around the political obstacles erected against “progressive” reform by self-interest and prejudice. “White Noise” attempts to do this by delegitimating the contributions of well-heeled, well-educated and well-connected Pakeha Aucklanders, so that a more just distribution of the city’s resources can be effected. Whether or not this is viewed as a worthwhile project will depend, almost entirely, on the reader’s ideological standpoint. The question for RNZ’s managers is whether or not investigations like “White Noise” should be undertaken by a supposedly politically neutral public broadcaster at the taxpayers’ expense?



  1. If it is true that old white people are dominating decision making, it also seems true that they are doing it intentionally or unintentionally, to hope to create a majority asian country in the Pacific…. and to destroy the welfare and transfer wealth out of the country.

    From Len Brown’s mistress on the council pay packet, to Phil Goff’s and many other mayor’s trips and relationships to China, to the surprising admission that you can buy your way into politics on the party list with 100k ‘donation’ and certain ethnicities were preferential to keep the donations going…

    In addition there seems to be a staggering amount of MSM and left commentators that quote the supply/demand as the fundamental of the housing crisis but then ignore/gloss over why the demand is stratospheric with unprecedented immigration into NZ and one of the highest in the world per capita, which seem to be to create more supply of overpriced new builds unaffordable on local wages, which luckily don’t fall under the foreign investment rules and favoured by new residents who don’t like ‘old’ houses.

    Apparently having more people coming to NZ requiring social welfare support in various ways from superannuation to maternity and increasing jobseeker numbers with no superannuation pensions or free welfare in their home country, is a good thing and all in the interest of white privilege and bought to us by ordinary Kiwis?? Weird logic!

    Also weird that most of the ‘race’ talk is from white privilege themselves!! A few years ago it would be frowned on to mention race at all as a blame scenario, now white male commentators in particular are all for self hate and turning the country over to the apparently more superior wisdom of rich or middle class Asian nationals under the white corporate banner of people like the tax working group that thinks it’s all a great idea!

    Go figure I never knew Asian countries were the pinnacles of equality, social advancement, free of corruption, pro women and a better future full of human rights and freedom of speech!

    All this driven by (new discourse of choice in NZ) old white Pakeha men in NZ who control the decision making? Must be why the Green Party has made such a splash with their counter measures to the main stream then! sarcasm.

    And I thought old white Pakeha men were all homophobic, xenophobic, white supremacist racists, but apparently their decision making seems to be enabling the opposite, a culturally diverse, offshoot of Asia with a splattering of super rich bolt holes, permanent residency and citizenship included in the package.

    Of course the middle class and working class Kiwi’s are happy to pony up more of their wages to pay for the infrastructure for this vision, wait for the trickle down in their car and be expected to embrace the new taxes aimed at their greedy ways by the tax working group made up of a wonderful selection of “ordinary” New Zealanders…

    Possibly the corporate and bureaucratic culture of decision making and the narrowness of the choices of neoliberals changing NZ’s future and whose prospects it is aiding in NZ should be more under scrutiny rather than race and identity politics!

    Along with chair Sir Michael Cullen, the Working Group members being appointed are:
    Professor Craig Elliffe, University of Auckland
    Joanne Hodge, former tax partner at Bell Gully
    Kirk Hope, Chief Executive of Business New Zealand
    Nick Malarao, senior partner at Meredith Connell
    Geof Nightingale, partner at PwC New Zealand
    Robin Oliver, former Deputy Commissioner at Inland Revenue
    Hinerangi Raumati, Chair of Parininihi ki Waitotara Inc
    Michelle Redington, Head of Group Taxation and Insurance at Air New Zealand
    Bill Rosenberg, Economist and Director of Policy at the CTU
    Marjan Van Den Belt, Assistant Vice Chancellor (Sustainability) at Victoria University of Wellington

  2. “The question for RNZ’s managers is whether or not investigations like “White Noise” should be undertaken by a supposedly politically neutral public broadcaster at the taxpayers’ expense?”

    Does this mean that all journalism carried out by RNZ should take the unbiased litmus test to make sure it has a political PH of zero?

  3. So you say it’s older, whiter, richer people versus younger, browner, poorer people.

    Given time and if they play their cards right, those younger, browner, poorer people will become older and richer. And if they plant trees now, like we did decades ago, their suburbs too will be leafy. They’re no worse off today than I was in the 70’s and there is no conspiracy to hold them down.

    Far better to give people the opportunity to create their own future, just like we did, rather than reducing inequality by dragging others down. The latter option has a dismal track record.

    As for brown-ness, few really care these days. It’s a bit like homosexuality in that it ceased to be an issue in the previous century. The only people who care about either are people trying to build their political career by dividing people…

  4. Tremendous Post @ CT.
    And if you think ‘White Noise’ has only affected Auckland…
    RNZ is as an abysmal pretence as The Listener magazine.
    RNZ and The Listener have become neo liberal apologist mechanisms and can now only spout out logical fallacies to appease those few narcissistic sociopaths who, by their virtue of their very madnesses, have vacuumed up our money for their pocketses.
    Our government should go in Deep and find out what’s really going on ( Has gone on) with our economy which has negatively impacted on our society.
    Adern’s “Lets do this” has been revealed as actually meaning ” Lets do anything but that.”
    ” Oh! Look! Rubgy and cooking shows! “

  5. Indeed.

    A while back RNZ National (I think that is the latest iteration) produced a programme on what South Africans think of NZ and how they are perceived. This was on the North Shore.

    Oddly enough I didn’t hear one black/so called coloured south african

    The programme was on on a week day at about 3.30pm can’t think what those pieces are called, what they come under.

  6. Auckland is more an oriental city now, so i was bemused by the comment.

    People who have democratic rights can’t complain if they don’t use them (nor can others complain on their behalf).

    • Its a philosophy based on raising kids in New Zealand, not giving them old peoples hang ups and making them play outside and discoverying enlightenment through play.

  7. It’s like climate change – we know what needs to be done but we don’t know how to do it – the social ramifications would be as devastating as climate change itself.

  8. Kate Newton did a Phil Twitford.

    Just like racist Twitford called everyone with a Asian name as house buyers, Jane has done the same with some suburbs. I live in one she talks about and it is very multicultural not the mono tone she portrays it as, far from it.

    She is just more of the bullshit that is NZ media these days.

  9. Who built this country into what it was before the Labour party began dismantling it in the 1980’s so that it could be handed over to it’s wealthy mates & foreigners? Largely young, white working class kiwis who’re now the much maligned older, wealthier kiwis who’ve worked their guts out to earn their moment in the sun.

    Hers’s another unpleasant fact; many of us older white folk don’t own property & are living on the bones of our arses. Not all downtrodden & impoverished people are brown or black.

    Now here’s a back to zero idea; imagine all us of young & old white folk getting together & deciding to exclude all the brown folk from participating in the cherished things we brought to this country since we’ve been here.

    They would have to revert back to what they knew & how they lived before or come up with such things as new; worldviews, political systems, economic & societal models, cultural activities, bureaucracies, industries & employment opportunities, urban & housing designs, learning institutions, welfare & health systems, defence force, farming systems & new sports to play.

    I know this is a somewhat ridiculous notion that is often use to justify our colonial history, but the truth is that the cherished cornerstones of our nation are largely European in origin. This does not mean that everything is hunky dory, but many beneficial aspects our European heritage are deliberately downplayed by those with anti-European or globalist agendas.

    • “They would have to revert back to what they knew & how they lived before or come up with such things as new; worldviews, political systems, economic & societal models, cultural activities, bureaucracies, industries & employment opportunities, urban & housing designs, learning institutions, welfare & health systems, defence force, farming systems & new sports to play.”

      Not only a ridiculous notion, but outrageously arrogant as well.
      You’re making the assumption that the lives of Maori are better now that they’ve been ‘civilised’ by the white colonists.
      Have you asked them if they feel blessed?

      I thought not.

      “new sports to play” FFS!

  10. The last 40-60 years under both National and Labour have disenfranchised hard working New Zealanders of all colours under the Neoliberal Economic Model.

    • +1 NGUNGUKAI

      If we look at how the Mana movement was destroyed not just by the right but by the political left too speaks volumes about how difficult it is ever going to be to create change away from the Neoliberal Economic Model.

  11. Like much of the Public Service RNZ is increasingly populated with people who have known nothing but the neoliberal experiment. RNZ newsroom in particular often seems to be the publicity wing of the National Party – RNZ National has a good ring to it…

  12. As for the what happened with the unitary plan, perhaps they should have listened a bit more to the old white people as they describe them (weird would they describe an another group by colour, aka old Asians or bunch of old brown people, because now under unitary plan there is not only less affordable houses in Auckland but more poverty.

    The changes in zoning led by lawyers paid to promote a view of development led PR groups for groups unknown, and those sprung up to spread a discourse that youth wanted the unitary plan by generation zero, with little to zero measures for society around that development (such as regulation of 5% of all developments need to have houses under $350,000, 10% under $500,000 and the developers have to prove viable commuter links and real pollution control).

    Instead the unitary plan has created less affordable housing and rentals, but also more taxes hitting households in Auckland like petrol taxes, higher general costs like electricity and people unable to go down to their local beach as it is often polluted. Nor is it possible to gather seafood for food in many cases as they have been wiped out.

    Whenever you see a well organised group these days, almost certainly they support developers, then they use ‘race’ if anyone disagrees with them.

    If you want to help the poor of Auckland, then have free allotments around every town for the locals to grow food, have free public transport that works, revamp citizens advice bureau’s, have youth and teenage hangouts in every town, have free, easily available, sympathetic people for budgeting and welfare advice, have regulation on development to create that sustainable lifestyle aka smaller build sizes, more family friendly with gardens for kids, more parks in communities, make the banks accountable for their lending structures against first home buyers and the poor, enforce solar panels in new builds, have bike and scooter lanes that lead to well run public transport which is best based around trains which are separate from the roads. Speed and cost is important for transport, as is how do people around a sprawling city get to and from the public transport!

    Funny how generation zero and MSM like Spinoff only minic’s corporate interests and don’t mention the above but just more development with little to zero regulation around that development including price and transport options, sustainable power and affordable food, insurance, banking and so forth…. And they are supposed to be the carbon generation group. Clearly we are doomed if we take their approach!

    One of the biggest exports out of NZ is profits, and that is led by banks, but never see any of these new middle class sponsored groups point out that banks make up much of our offshore profits being lost…. and they are not rich, white Pakeha owning the banks, just as likely to be Hong Kong based consortiums or OZ pension funds.

    Meanwhile look forward to seeing the tax working groups findings on how to stop all those banks, maybe like nothing??? Even OZ is finding massive banking routs but in NZ, our politicians say, we trust you banks, and take that job on the board, wink, wink, once they leave politics…

  13. I rest my case, on that unitary plan and all the so called experts who somehow can not see the obvious ways to lower the cost of housing and why it is so expensive in NZ, from the councils to the banks making housing unaffordable!

    Developers are still building poor housing that needs remedial work costing millions of dollars but apparently they are more scared of a small kitset going wrong???

    The power interests have the debate, and the sad thing, is that the left commentators are now their echo chambers on what to do with housing and keep the power interests going.

    “They paid for new reports to be done. But when they went to the bank they found they didn’t want to lend on kitset houses, transportables or tiny homes.

    “They won’t loan on those, anything out of the norm. They want a nice three-bedroom house which is designed and drafted up and has a builder’s quote.”

    “When you start doing that it costs $400k to $500k. And we never wanted to do that.”

    “When you start doing that it costs $400k to $500k. And we never wanted to do that.”

  14. Youre on Fire Chris! Identifying, calling out, the Woke Millennial Activists been corralled and misdirected by wishy washy liberal gweenie laboury fucks like JBS.

  15. Countryboy, you call this blog ‘tremendous’ whereas I see it as much ado about nothing. Caught some of this non-event one day, simplistic rubbish I thought was a summer offering because anything decent was on holiday.

  16. Apart from the fact that older people tend to make more submissions to select committees there are some pretty strong demographic reasons – namely the historical, demographic fact that people of European decent have by far been the largest demographic for most of NZ’s history as a nation – that make anyone pretending to be shocked at this “study” look like an absolute moron.

    If Miss B.S wants to she is welcome to go door knocking and to ask every brown person she encounters to please make more select committee submissions. Otherwise I guess she’s going to have to wait until, I don’t know, the country is no longer majority European by ethnicity – or demographic fact? Idiot!

  17. This is a bloody simplification and some distortion of the facts. While most submitters may be middle class or even better off ‘white’ people, those ‘white’ people who dissent, they are not heard anyway, no matter they are white, or whether they would be of any other colours.

    And even many middle class people are not much listened to when making submissions, as Council tends to call their selectively chosen ‘experts’, who tend to be speakers from business, technical advisors working for and with business (or Council), and at times academia, also working with business and Council.

    What we have is technocrats, and bureaucrats, work hand in hand with business, and whether you are white, brown or whatsoever, it does not have much influence.

    I noticed this when following submissions to the Unitary Plan, it was all BS, they had already made their minds, up, the members of that supposedly ‘independent hearing panel’, set up by government, and worked with by Council.

    By the way, now ‘rebel’ mayoral co candidate Christine Fletcher, who joins John Tamihere to challenge Goff, she voted for most of this BS. They are both BS, and self loving and self serving individuals, with certain business interests, it will not make one bit of difference, whether Goff or those clowns will be in charge.

    Trouble is, Kiwis love being voting idiots, voting in idiots, and blaming them for the idiocy the display when making decisions when in charge. It is a hopeless case this country, a basked case.

    Turn this place into a nuclear testing ground for North Korea, and shut the rest up, there is NO future for the idiocy that goes on in this place.

    • +1 Marc esp pointing out that it does not matter what colour you are, you will not be listened too, unless you support the power interests that pay the technocratsand bureaucrats to flood the discourse with ‘their’ flawed simplistic options (around continued old style neoliberal development of Auckland, which most residents can see does not work and also now proven not to provide any affordable housing either) and point of view.

      “This is a bloody simplification and some distortion of the facts. While most submitters may be middle class or even better off ‘white’ people, those ‘white’ people who dissent, they are not heard anyway, no matter they are white, or whether they would be of any other colours.

      And even many middle class people are not much listened to when making submissions, as Council tends to call their selectively chosen ‘experts’, who tend to be speakers from business, technical advisors working for and with business (or Council), and at times academia, also working with business and Council.

      What we have is technocrats, and bureaucrats, work hand in hand with business, and whether you are white, brown or whatsoever, it does not have much influence.”

  18. To contribute to discussions, and to submission processes, one has to work within rules and process restrictions. If people cannot bother, because they feel unimportant, oppressed and disowned, or being of a ‘class’ not recognised, then this is a concern.

    But from my experience, it is both government and councils, who make it relatively easy to submit your view on topics and issues. Whether this will ever be seriously considered is another matter.

    I do not think that there is a systemic discrimination in this time and age, against certain ethnic groups, it rather seems the opposite. We get forms and info in all kinds of languages, e.g. Asian, Pasifika, but Dutch, Germans, French are expected to speak, understand and express themselves in English.

    Perhaps we are going too far with trying to involve people, and some are just too lazy or indifferent to raise their voices?

    • +1 Marc.

      Also spying paid for by the state in areas like TPPA/Conservation issues is also a reason not to bother submitting on a lot of subjects as those submitting can therefore be spied upon at later times…

      So submitting to government relies on trust, functioning democracy and a moral compass, which in light of recent revelations of spying paid for by government suggests that the government can not be trusted.

      In light of dirty politics, it also seems that power interests using the MSM and government to further fake news and to discredit people.

      Conveniently the woke left movement often agrees wholehearted with globalism and neoliberalism or takes a stance so ridiculous it discredits and takes the discourse away from the middle ground of an argument further helping the right???

    • When are hui going to be the norm for everyone? Not European-style ‘meetings’. Modern hui. Because this is NZ, right? We’ve built our own cultural means whereby – yes?

      Where is the third branch of consultation? We have Crown. We have Maori. We do not have anything equal with those for the citizens who are of this country and are in no way ‘British subjects’ any more. You know -‘partnership’.

      BTW – can someone find anything more inclusive of The Rest of Us than ‘non-Maori’? It feels just a teeny bit dismissive and divisive, thanks all the same.

  19. The strange thing about all this is the economics.

    Enabling the subdivision of property and growth upward increases the value of the land underneath.

    So the new urban planning moves will make the well heeled owners of 1/4 acre sections in those areas very very rich when they on-sell.

    The irony is that there is also a lifting of all boats aspect.

    Even in suburbs of the high and mighty spared this new urban densification land values will soar – obviously not only because of the development value (sub-division could still occur) but because of the increased scarcity of such 1/4 acre sections in the urban centre.

Comments are closed.