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Ministers lay down wero for Maori

12 November 2003 Media Statement

Ministers lay down wero for Maori

Maori MPs John Tamihere and Dover Samuels have issued a challenge to Maori to address child abuse, neglect, drug abuse and crime in their communities.

The Tamaki Makaurau and Te Tai Tokerau MPs said they were driven to issue the challenge in the wake of new figures showing that Maori children comprise more than half of all reported neglect cases, and the killing of 15-year-old Michael Heremaia, who had been running a drug house for a gang in Mangere.

The MPs said the reports highlighted that the next generation of Maori was in serious trouble, and Maori themselves had to accept responsibility and make addressing the problem their top priority.

"These cases are just the thin end of the wedge. Abuse, neglect, drug abuse and crime are becoming endemic among young people in our communities, as long as Maori keep burying their heads in the sand," the MPs said.

"While people keep thinking the problem is just going to go away, or that the Government can alone be responsible for it, it will only get worse. I see that as a very dangerous path," Mr Samuels said.

"The challenge for our people is to get off their butts and face this crisis.
Maori keep jumping up and down over the foreshore and seabed and constitutional issues and blaming colonisation while the fabric of Maori society is eroding away before our eyes," Mr Samuels said.

"This is the cutting edge of challenges for Maori – this is where we should be concentrating our energies, or we will continue to be haunted by the negative statistics and nothing will improve for our young people," the MPs said.

"Change must be inspired by leaders – whether they are inside or outside politics – who are visionary and have the courage to tackle this head on. We have to accept responsibility for the problem and not pass it on to the State or CYF. Otherwise we are looking into the abyss of a dysfunctional Maori nation. It is our tamariki who will pay the price if we do not act now."

Mr Samuels and Mr Tamihere said whanau and hapu could not hand over responsibility and let the State stand in as a de facto parent for Maori children.
Mr Samuels said he had been contacted by a number of Maori community providers, Maori wardens, and others in the community who were deeply concerned by the situation of many young Maori.

"The problem of dysfunctional families failing to take adequate care of their children, in combination with easy access to the drug P, is a time bomb waiting to go off," the MPs said.

Government initiatives such as increased funding to target methamphetamine manufacturers and dealers, programmes combating truancy, and keeping more young Maori in education or training, would go some way to resolving problems, but support of Maori communities was crucial to their success, the MPs said.

"As Maori MPs and ministers and, just as importantly, as parents of children ourselves, we are doing everything we can from a Government perspective, but if anyone thinks the Government can solve the problem alone, they must be dreaming. Ultimately, the turnaround can only come with the buy-in and contribution of our people."


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