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Closing the gaps essential for NZ's future

22 June 2000 Media Statement

Closing the gaps essential for NZ's future - Maharey

New Zealand's future prosperity will be built on the success of the Closing the Gaps initiatives, says Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey.

Speaking to community social service agencies in Porirua this afternoon, Mr Maharey said all New Zealanders would suffer if living standards for Mäori and Pacific peoples were not raised. Closing the gaps wasn't only about building a more equal society, it was also an essential future-proofing strategy for New Zealand which recognised significant demographic change predicted to occur in the country's population.

"The Government's commitment to Closing the Gaps responds directly to the widespread call we heard all over New Zealand during the election campaign: that the continued growth of social disparity in our society must be stopped.

"But it also is about ensuring this country has a prosperous future. At the time of the 1996 census 24% of children were Mäori and a further 10% came from Pacific communities. By 2016 it is predicted that the number of Mäori children will have grown to 28% and Pacific children will have grown to 13%.

"Our future prosperity will depend on our ability to ensure Mäori and Pacific children grow into the highly skilled individuals a dynamic modern economy and society needs.

"Economic and social disadvantage amongst Mäori and Pacific peoples is well documented. Quite simply, all New Zealanders have an interest in seeing the gaps closed. No country can prosper when almost half of its children – New Zealand's future – do not enjoy the opportunities they should.

"The challenge for Pakeha New Zealand is to get behind the Government as we close the gaps in our society," Steve Maharey said.

ENDS

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