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Gap Will Be Bridged - Clark

Prime Minister Helen Clark has announced the creation of a new ministerial committee aiming to close the social and economic divide between Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders.

Speaking at the Ratana Marae near Whanganui on Monday, Prime Minister Clark strongly criticised the previous lack of involvement of public bodies in the provision of services to Maori .

She says the new committee, which she will head, was part of a larger government strategy to place control of Maori spending back under a restructured Maori Affairs department.

Other members of the committee will be decided in the first meeting of Cabinet today. Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels will be a member.

Clark led a large contingent of Labour MPs to the Ratana Marae joining the Ratana church’s celebration of the birth of founder Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana.

Ratama Church secretary Waka Paama said while the church welcomed the proposed changes they would reserve their decision until after labour had completed its three-year electoral term.

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