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PM Jacinda Ardern at Waitangi: 'we do have a way to go'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says government initiatives are creating jobs and opportunities for Māori, even if there is a long way to go.

PM Ardern and other
government MPs at pōwhiri

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she expects rangatahi to hold her to account when she addresses them at Waitangi today. Photo: Photo / Jo Moir

Speaking on Morning Report today, she said she would be following through on her commitment to rangatahi at Waitangi last year, that they should hold her to account for the progress on lifting Māori achievement.

She said although the national unemployment rate had fallen to 3.9 percent the Māori rate was down from 10 percent to 8.5 percent with a small decline overall in Northland.

The numbers of Māori aged 15 to 24 not in education, employment or training dropped by 1 percent to 10 percent.

"We do have a way to go - I'm very open about that and I will be open about that today - but in terms of direction of travel we've applied the brakes hard.

"We are investing in the kinds of programmes that we hope will put young people into employment, education, and training and I met some of the people we've already been working with yesterday."

"In terms of direction of travel we've applied the brakes hard," - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern duration 8:39

from Morning Report

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"In terms of direction of travel we've applied the brakes hard," - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Ms Ardern said she was sceptical about the National Party's claims the Provincial Growth Fund had paid out just $26.6 million and created 54 jobs in its first year.

She said $97m had been invested in 37 projects across Northland - everything from a mountainbiking trail to improving airport infrastructure, but was unsure how many jobs had been created throughout New Zealand from the fund's projects.

Some of the projects would take some time "to gear up" but one example that had just been announced for Northland was a roading project in Kaipara, where 72 percent of roads are not sealed, and this kind of work would take some time to be completed.

On lifting Māori children out of poverty, Ms Ardern said current data did not give a full picture. She said millions of dollars were invested in Statistics New Zealand in the last Budget to improve sampling for the Household Economic Report, which currently relies on information from 3000 to 5000 families.

"So the data specifically on Māori families is inadequate. We're trying to change that and that's one of the conversations we've had directly with Māori around the Child Poverty Bill. We don't know enough specifically about those rates."

The Families Package announced last July had benefited 50,000 Māori families, about $1 billion had been given to Māori families on low or medium incomes and 45,000 Māori families had received the accommodation supplement, she said.

Ms Ardern said the number of Māori in prison had alsodeclined by a few hundred, although as a percentage it had increased by about 1 percent.

Ms Ardern did not recall being asked a question by Dame Rangimarie Naida Glavish at last week's iwi forum on whether the government had the courage to work with iwi on delivering on all its "broken promises".

"I'm not going to claim after 12 months perfection. I'm not going to claim that we've done all we need to do. I have fronted and had Ministers front at every single iwi chairs forum ... we're going in the right direction and I continue to get positive feedback about that."

Ms Ardern said there had been targeted funding for Māori in last year's Budget, including around housing and whenua Māori, and the government has indicated there would be more unveiled in the 2019 wellbeing Budget.

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