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"Working for a sustainable world" - Tariana Turia

Hon Tariana Turia
27 October 2000 Speech Notes

Speech to Workers Educational Association "Working for a sustainable world" Conference, St Andrews, Wellington

Does the focus on economic growth widen the gaps and creates an uncivil society


Tena koutou katoa.

Thank you for inviting me here this evening to contribute with my colleague, Hon Steve Maharey to a discussion on whether economic growth widens the gaps and creates an uncivil society.

I look forward to a thought-provoking discussion on what a civil society is, and perhaps, what it isn't.

I believe the economic growth and social development aspirations of communities, are both necessary and complimentary in a civil society.

I do not intend to linger on what I believe an uncivil society might look like. Suffice to say whether you are talking about Papatuanuku or Mother earth, although the language may be different, there is no difference, in the importance accorded to land, by each. Land is held in high regard. The land will protect, nourish, and empower you.

Any people who are without land, will have difficulty in developing economically.

Whether it is a crofter in Scotland, a tenant farmer in England or iwi in New Zealand, loss of land, is simply more than a loss of resource, it has a lasting impact on your history and on your identity.

So, what are the components and direction I believe are necessary in a civil society. Firstly, can I say, that I do believe all of those components are present in New Zealand society today. I acknowledge that they may not be consistent throughout society, however, this identifies a challenge that we as a country must address together.

Although, I have in the past been criticised for seeing the potential in our whanau, to fulfil their aspirations and for emphasising the positives, rather than chorusing the negatives. I do truly believe that our whanau, hapu and iwi have enormous potential to achieve long term sustainable independence through their strategic economic and social development.

The development proposals I receive from whanau, hapu and iwi are their aspirations for overcoming their dis-empowerment through their loss by providing social and economic development frameworks for their future.

This morning I attended the launch of the Whanganui Iwi Education Plan at home in Whanganui. I spoke of the ebb and flow of our Awa (river), Whanganui, and the unity between the people and the Awa. It was the river I acknowledged, in the planning for growth, that created the Iwi education plan, despite the experience of the rapids, the floods and smooth flow of our development.

Throughout my speech, I acknowledged, the one constant thing, the middle current which flows from the mountains to the sea, the backbone of our people. And, so it is with whanau, hapu and iwi development, constant, ebbing and flowing, it's momentum and emphasis defined by the environment of the time, its existence unquestionable and its progress continuous.

I believe economic growth and social development have a unique relationship. Both take their turn paddling the waka, both take their turn steering the waka. Neither ever has total has control all the time, or, we would find ourselves in a whirlpool of our own creation.

To me, the 'training-go-round' the previous Government put many of our young Maori on, with little regard for their potential or future, is an example of economic dominance out of control.

The reliance of the previous government on the 'market forces' to resolve all through the trickle-down theory, is another aspect of that lack of control.

Economic growth, is the result of social interactions between and amongst groups and individuals within society. While in theory it may be easier to separate out economic growth from social development, it is not the practical reality when developing a direction for the future development of the country.

While whanau, hapu and iwi around the country are working on social development initiatives to address their aspirations, they are also working to identify, assess and develop their economic base to ensure, such social development will have a long term sustainable existence. Whanau, hapu and iwi adopt a holistic approach to wellbeing and development.

They must, while identifying future economic development initiatives, ensure their whanau members have the means and social support, to acquire the expertise, so they can make the most of the economic opportunities for their whanau.

Society, including government, must also find that same balance. This week the Government held a Business Forum in Auckland to discuss with business, economic growth opportunities for the country, through innovation, business creation and investment. There is a need to build on New Zealand's past successes toward a more innovative and dynamic economy.

This may seem strange talk coming from myself, however, bare with me a little longer.

What I should point out at this time is that while I have ministerial responsibilities for Maori social development, I am well aware, the resource used to deliver such programmes, is funded by the wealth generated by our economic activities. Such economic activities in turn, rely on the social organisation of society, to ensure that the skill and expertise are available in this country.

I do not believe simply, in wealth creation, for wealth creation's sake. The creation of wealth in society must have a societal purpose. Economic growth on it's own will not resolve current inequities whether it is within families or within society. There must be a concerted effort, to uplift, society so all can realise their development potential.

Government must focus on economic and social policies working together, rather than colliding with each other, just as the iwi do in their development proposals. Ensuring that our children can succeed at school, ensuring that our health system delivers the services required and our families are provided with the level of support they require are vital. We must, if we are to ensure that as a society, both make and take the opportunities to develop.

As I said earlier, economic growth and social development need to work hand in hand. It is the acceptance and focus on this complimentary development that must be our priority if we are to build a civil society in the future.

Around the world it has been shown that indigenous peoples progress at a far greater rate when they are driving their own waka, their own development, not one that is borrowed, or copied. That is a reality. It is something whanau, hapu and iwi have been striving to achieve in all aspects of our lives, for years.

To focus on one aspect of development, no matter which aspect it may be, economic or social, is to unbalance the waka, as it creates a whirlpool. Just as the waka must be balanced, to withstand the ebbs and flows of the environment, household budgets whether they be for the family, the Government or the iwi, they must be balanced. I do not presume all will be plain sailing, however a balanced waka is much more likely to weather the ways of the Awa.

I believe the Government has the ability to find that balance, as it makes it's way towards the civil society, just as I believe whanau, hapu and iwi have the ability to determine and find their balance.

ENDS

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