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Maori And Science - Pete Hodgson Speech

Hon Pete Hodgson Speech Notes

[Address to Ministry of Research, Science and Technology hui — Whaia te Ara Putaiao o Aotearoa — Wellington]

The Government is committed to transforming New Zealand’s economy. We have a vision for a society where knowledge is valued and recognised as the key to prosperity.

Critical to this future are government investments in research, science and technology.

But our vision goes beyond investment: we are committed to creating an overall environment where innovation can thrive.

Such innovation must include projects where Maori will benefit directly, such as researching better ways of utilising Maori owned resources and knowledge systems.

Transforming New Zealand is not a simply a case of more R&D spending. We are adopting a “whole-of-government” approach to the innovation system. For too long we have thought in boxes and silos.

It is a far more complex issue – involving education policy, attitudes to innovation, the competencies of our business people, and incentives to innovate.

We need to create the right environment across all sectors of society to ensure that knowledge is valued, and that it is transformed into health and wealth for all.

Furthermore, if we are going to transform New Zealand into a more knowledge-intensive economy and society — as we must — then all New Zealanders must be included in the transformation.

We must make the most of the abundant talent of New Zealanders and we must disperse the benefits of knowledge widely and fairly.

Maori have a vital contribution to make, and just as much to gain.

Maori talent and knowledge must be tapped. And Maori must get the share of the gains to which the Treaty partnership entitles them.

So why is MoRST holding this hui?

One answer is that it is important Maori understand how the purchase agents work – the Foundation, the Health Research Council, the Marsden Fund. Those three agents will have something to say. That’s session two.

Another reason for this hui is to explain a new funding stream. It has been a long time coming, but in last year's Budget, we created a new funding stream for research specifically by Maori for Maori.

Technically this is known as the Maori Knowledge and Development Output Class. The type of research supported by this stream embraces Maori customs and knowledge, using this base to research and develop tools and mechanisms to improve Maori health, social and economic well-being.

I know there is growing interest amongst Maori in accessing this fund. Last year the HRC and FoRST jointly developed and ran a tender process to fund Matauranga Maori research.

Around 75 enquiries were initially received for the tender. During stage two, 30 expressions of interest were received. In the end five of these applicants were asked to develop full proposals.

I am pleased to say the two successful applicants for the 2000/2001 funding round are:

Dr Papaarangi Reid, who intends to study Maori disparities and deprivation issues; and

Dr Meto Leach, who intends to investigate the indigenous medicinal flora used by Tuhoe.

Compared with other funding streams the level of funding specifically for research by Maori for Maori is low. It will need to increase. It did a little a few weeks ago in this year’s budget and it will need to again and again.

So to recap.

One reason for this hui was to tell you about how the purchasers work. A second was to discuss and explore the new output class on Maori knowledge and development.

But the important reason for this hui is, basically, without beating around the bush, to improve the relationship between MoRST and Maori innovation, between Maori innovation and myself and between one individual Maori researcher and another.

Maori must have better access to the innovation system. Its design, its funding, its benefits. That’s the Treaty partnership analysis.

Here is another analysis. It’s all mine.

I think Maori think differently. Different thought processes, different paradigms, different ways to approach a problem, explore it and solve it. If I’m right, and I might be, then I put it to you that better infusing the New Zealand innovation system with that different approach and paradigm is good not for Maori alone, but for us as a nation.

Think about that. Decide whether I’m right or whether I’m completely out to lunch, and respond how you wish.

One last thing. The challenges facing Maori scientists and Maori science students are different from, and often of greater magnitude than, those facing non-Maori.

I know that because I’m the member for Dunedin North, which encompasses Otago University and the whole tertiary education complex around it.

I know it because Maori scientists and science students tell me as Minister, all the time.

So I am wondering what a Government might do to help Maori address that. Try today to answer that question.

If part of the answer lies in a reinvigorated national Maori mathematicians, scientists and technologists group — and I met two people last week who think it does, and I’m aware of yesterday’s hui — then that is fine by me.

Have a good day. Learn, challenge, offer constructive criticism. Shift your thinking. Shift our thinking. Tell us if you want to do it again.

Ka kite ano.


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