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Jim Sutton speech To Ngati Kahungunu Seminar

10.10am, 27 February 2002

Ngati Kahungunu seminar, Napier

Chairman Wi Huata, my colleague Parekura Horomia, ladies and gentlemen: I am delighted to be here today.

Because of my commitments as Trade Negotiations Minister, I was overseas last year when Ngati Kahungunu held its economic hui with Prime Minister Helen Clark and seven other Cabinet Ministers. I was sorry about that, as I have a strong interest in Maori development.

It is traditional in Maori custom to say that the strength of Maori society is its people.

Ngati Kahungunu is not only the second-largest tribe in New Zealand, it also has the second largest area of land still in Maori ownership. This gives you both people and land as your resource base.

The Labour-led Government is committed to enhancing and improving the design, delivery, and monitoring of policies and programmes which impact on Maori economic opportunity and social outcomes.

Our preference is to work in partnership and empower whanau, hapu, iwi, and all Maori to be involved directly in the development of their land.

To that end, this Government, working through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, has set up several programmes to facilitate Maori development of land.

Two of these currently operate only on the East Coast, in Ngati Porou land. These are the East Coast Forestry Project, and the Farm Improvement Co-ordinator scheme.

I am particularly proud of the Farm Improvement Co-ordinator scheme.

This fund was set up 18 months ago with money from the Reducing Inequalities contingency fund. That used to be called Closing the Gaps. It's a programme that's had a lot of flack thrown at it, quite undeservedly in my opinion. The Farm Improvement Co-ordinator scheme is a tangible, accountable, auditable scheme that has produced results.

What's to be ashamed of there?

I reject any criticism that the programme is inequitably biased toward Maori.

Firstly, because non-Maori farmers are welcome to participate, and do so.

Secondly, because it should be remembered that mainstream New Zealand farming was substantially assisted by government-funded Department of Agriculture advisory officers, when developing from levels of production still common in some parts of New Zealand, such as the East Coast.

But largely, because the extra problems of managing multiply-owned holdings, much Maori land missed out. The new Farm Improvement Co-ordinator scheme simply provides an updated FAO-type service while also paying attention to multiple-ownership issues.

About three weeks ago, I visited Hakurenga Station at Waipiro Bay which has been working with the co-ordinator Albert Horsfall and his kaumatua Bob Maru. This station has been able to improve its profitability 10-fold with the assistance of Mr Horsfall. That's what I call significant!

Hard work, experience and mana on the part of Mr Horsfall and his kaumatua has paid off with improved productivity from East Coast farms and increased profitability for their owners.

This initiative has been seized upon by local people. There has been support from other government agencies, such as Te Puni Kokiri, the Maori Land Court, and the Maori Trust Office, but in addition to that, the district council and private sector groups such as local banks, stock and station firms, veterinarians, and meat processing companies have contributed people and finacial resource to the programme.

These people are involved because they see this project has real significance.

Higher productivity and greater profitability on farms with under-utilised land would result in better employment opportunities, wages, and working conditions for farm managers and farm workers, and higher dividend payments for landowners. In the Gisborne and Wairoa districts, a significant number of these are Maori.

That scheme was a pilot programme. I think it's working brilliantly. Personally, I hope we will be able to expand this scheme, and I see Ngati Kahungunu land as a good area to move into. It's the sort of project that enables Maori to work together to develop skills to improve their own situations.

Another successful project, working in your area this time, is the Maori Dairy farmers discussion group which has been established in the Hawkes Bay-Tararua area to further develop Maori participation in the Dairy industry.

This programme is being funded through the Sustainable Farming Fund and was initiated by a Taranaki Dairy farmers discussion group which has been operating for more than 20 years.

This group has been very successful in developing and expanding with the industry and also mentoring and involving young Maori to become involved in the industry.

The two groups are now working together to share information and development as well as the training of young Maori.

The Sustainable Farming Fund offers opportunities to Ngati Kahungunu. The fund, which the Labour Party promised before the election, provides financial support for community-driven projects aimed at supporting the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of rural New Zealand.

Anyone with projects they need funding for can contact MAF, the Sustainable Farming Fund office, or Te Puni Kokiri offices for application forms.

Under the Joint Working Relationship Agreement that MAF has with TPK, an assessment mechanism has been set up to ensure that Maori applicants are referred to the correct funding source. If the SFF gets an application better suited to the TPK capacity building programme, it will be referred there. The same thing should happen if TPK gets an application better suited to the SFF.

So far, we've had three SFF projects specifically relating to Maori landowners and Maori land.

I've already talked about the Maori dairy farmers' project.

There is also the Maori land Use Options Resource Kit by the Opotiki Development Project. Funding was provided in the first year of the Sustainable Farming Fund, and the project was completed and launched in July last year.

The kit provides basic information on potential land use options, steps to follow to properly establish trusts or incorporations, strategies to access capital, and identify key contacts for further support. It was produced specifically for the needs of landowners in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

However, there was huge interest in this kit from many other groups throughout the country.

The Opotiki Development Project has now received another grant from the SFF to produce a broader kit, so that it can be used as a key resource nationwide.

The third Maori Group funded through the SFF is the Waiapu Goat Meat Producers Club, who want to assess the potential for goat meat with the idea of transforming an environmental menace into an economic resource.

Ladies and Gentlemen: it does no-one in this country any good if Ngati Kahungunu fail to develop their resources of land and people.

Mr Horomia has mentioned this Government's desire to see New Zealand become an innovative society. That applies to you as well.

I know there are many people in Ngati Kahungunu with the potential to be successful, innovative, and productive. I have detailed a few opportunities through land development, and I am sure that many other opportunities will be discussed in the next two days.

I look forward to watching your progress.

Thank you.

Office of Hon Jim Sutton

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