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Turia Speech: Credit Unions community development

Tariana Turia Speech: Credit Unions and community development


I know you had a busy day yesterday and I hope you enjoyed the rugby last night.

It is good to be here with members of a movement strongly based on voluntary activity. I understand that more than 400 people offer their time as Chairpersons, Directors, Trustee Supervisers, Internal Auditors and other office bearers to run Credit Unions. Credit Unions are one of the larger volunteer groups in Aotearoa.

Volunteering can lead people in all kinds of directions - sometimes unexpected ones. When I started out coaching netball I would never have dreamed that one day I would be the Minister with responsibility for taking issues for volunteers to Cabinet.

Perhaps it is just as well I didn’t see where I was travelling to when I started on that path. We take a small step at a time and we can travel a long way.

I am proud to be Minister of the Community and Voluntary Sector and take up the concerns of people who are prepared to freely give time and commitment to their communities. It is something that most New Zealanders actually do – some ninety percent of all working age people in New Zealand undertook some form of unpaid activity in the four weeks leading up to the last Census.

Volunteering is what keeps marae going and, according to the 2001 Census, Maori women put in the most hours of voluntary work of any group in the country. So it is a responsibility that fits with my commitment to work for tangata whenua.

My vision for tangata whenua is one where families see their children growing up healthy and happy, supported by their whanau and achieving to their potential. It is a vision where tikanga, our traditional rules for proper behaviour, is re-established and tangata whenua have pride in the past, a commitment to the present, and confidence in the future.

I do not think this vision differs very much for others – we all want a future for our kids. We all want our older people, our kaumatua, to receive honour, respect and care in later years. We all want a safe and healthy place to live.

For tangata whenua raising credit has been complicated because our major assets have been owned jointly and could not be mortgaged.

Credit Unions offer a chance for tangata whenua to act collectively, combining resources to achieve their dreams. So I appreciate the role that credit unions have played for tangata whenua in particular and for all New Zealanders.

The responsibility of accounting for the savings of members and helping them to achieve their aspirations is one that cannot be taken lightly. I congratulate you for your care and commitment to looking after the interests of your members. There is a lot of trust riding on you and many decades of service to credit unions are represented in this room.

Recently I have been working on the establishment of an Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector in the Ministry of Social Development. The Office is being set up to provide advice on cross-government policy issues affecting the community and voluntary sector and to enhance the sector’s involvement in government decision-making.

The Office will be a key point of contact in the bureaucracy for community, voluntary and tangata whenua organisations at the national policy level. Some aspects of their work programme will be of real interest to you.

They will be working to support sector-led initiatives to strengthen community and voluntary sector capability and addressing barriers that prevent people from volunteering. To do this work the Office will need information from organisations doing the work.

The official launch of the Office happens on Monday. At the moment the Office is just getting established and has a small staff, but I expect them to be up and running very quickly.

I have established the Office to enhance the relationship between the government and organisations like yourselves, which do such valuable work in our communities.

In the last term of government we heard how the relationship between government and community organisations had broken down. The position of Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector was established to rebuild that relationship.

My colleague Steve Maharey was the first Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector and he did the groundwork which led to the Prime Minister signing a Statement of Government Intentions for an Improved Community - Government Relationship in 2001. This set out our commitment to treating community organisations with respect and working constructively with the sector.

It is important that we work together to build strong communities, iwi, and hapu. Strong communities, iwi and hapu are able to create the innovations and the groundwork that is needed to build a sustainable future with enhanced social and economic well-being.

The government has sent a strong message to the public service that we expect the departments to work together for the community.

It takes quite a while to get change in the public service, but the message is getting through and changes are being made to the silos that have built up over the years when each department was encouraged to stick to its “core business” without having regard to the impact of what it was doing on the work of other departments, let alone community groups.

The connections are starting to happen and we will keep pushing for improvement.

I would also like to wish you well in celebrating International Credit Union Day next month on Thursday, October 16. The idea for an international day began in the USA and I understand that some 93 nations now have credit unions and could share in the celebrations. While different countries celebrate in different ways, I like the practical approach taken here with activities such as fundraisers for local charities, teaching the basics of money management and teaching the importance of savings.

The celebration of this special day for your international community has a theme this year of "Credit Unions: The Heart of our Communities." So often financial institutions concentrate on the head, it is good to acknowledge the heart in this business.

The not-for profit, co-operative, member-owned nature of the credit union is something to celebrate. It is also a model that has stood the test of time, with the first credit union reportedly being established in Germany in 1852.

In New Zealand there have been credit unions for more than a hundred years and the diversity of the credit union movement reflects the responsiveness of your movement to differing communities.

It is important that this diversity continue to flourish and reflect the differing needs and strengths of our communities in the years ahead as we look to build community, iwi and hapu drive.

Kia ora tatou katoa.

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