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Notice of Motion: Vote Audit; Vote Ombudsmen etc

Notice of Motion: Vote Audit; Vote Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment; Vote Ombudsmen, Vote Offices of Parliament.

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader, Maori Party

Wednesday 5 April 2006

The Maori Party rises tonight, to speak to the Notice of Motion.

The provisions ear-marked within the 2004/05 appropriations for Vote Audit, Vote Ombudsmen and Vote Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, and the associated draft budgets, reflect an important principle within the democratic process, the importance of independence.

We come to this financial review debate, spurred on by the report of the Special Rapporteur.

A report which demonstrates the importance of independence, of integrity, the capacity to stand outside and make an informed contribution.

Mr Rodolfo Stavenhagen has confirmed in his report, many of the issues raised by the Maori Party within this House and within the general public arena.

Issues relating to the Treaty settlements, to education, to the foreshore and seabed, to MMP and the entrenchment of the Maori seats, to human rights, and of course to the position of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in relation to our country’s constitution.

It is of no surprise that the Government has chosen to react to the report with hot-headed retorts that the committee should be abolished and replaced because of its "ill-odour”; that the Rapporteur is out of touch with New Zealand, that the report has been ghost-written, that the people who contributed to the report are a collection of academic radicals.

It is, in fact, irrelevant that the Government chooses to deny the value of an external expert opinion.

All that urging to make us believe the report is fundamentally wrong just consolidates the view of thinking New Zealanders even more - that this Government has made some fatal errors in imposing the Foreshore and Seabed Act on this nation.

The Office of the Auditor-General, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment have the same responsibility that the Special Rapporteur in demonstrating the importance of independence, of integrity, the capacity to stand outside and make an informed contribution.

In the Maori Affairs Select Committee we had the opportunity to receive the assessment from the Office of the Auditor-General of Te Puni Kokiri.

The briefing we received, from the office of the Auditor-General on Te Puni Kokiri, told us that Te Puni Kokiri had received a “good” assessment from the office for financial and service performance during the 2004/05 financial year.

Like my colleague from the National Party, Tau Henare, I ask how can it be “good” that:

o Te Puni Kokiri appears to have moved its focus and resources away from its monitoring role?

How can it be good that an agency is not taking seriously its responsibilities under Section 5 of the Ministry of Maori Development Act and is instead down-sizing its monitoring role?

The responsibilities of the Ministry of Mäori Development include-

(a) Promoting increases in the levels of achievement attained by Mäori with respect to Education; Training and employment; Health and Economic resource development.

(b) Monitoring, and liaising with, each department and agency that provides or has a responsibility to provide services to or for Mäori for the purpose of ensuring the adequacy of those services.

The report which the United Nations Special Rapporteur has presented to this country cites, and I quote:,

the “underlying institutional and structural discrimination that Maori have long suffered”.

How will the Government, how will this Parliament ever be able to respond to this underlying discrimination unless Te Puni Kokiri provides us with the information to be able to make an informed judgement?

The Report from the Special Rapporteur recommends that social delivery services, particularly health and housing, must continue to be specifically targeted and tailored to the needs of Maori.

He urges there to be more targeted research, evaluation and statistical data bases.

This is the sort of criticism we would expect from our own office of the Auditor General. In thinking about some of the knee-jerk reaction from Labour and National alike today, there was one thing I agreed with, the concern that we have to wait for an independent outside expert to tell us about the disparities and discrimination that is occurring right underneath our noses here in Aotearoa.

Mr Speaker the other point I want to raise in relation to the 2004/05 appropriations is to briefly refer to the work programme of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

The baseline increase of $400,000 for 2005/06 to restore and maintain core capability is targeted to allow the office to expand its capacity to address citizens' concerns relating to the Resource Management Act 1991 review functions.

And in this, the Maori Party wants to give particular emphasis to the work of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment in constructing a Genuine Progress Index.

The Maori Party has advocated for a Genuine Progress Index, GPI, as providing a measure of comprehensive, sustainable, and inclusive advancement.

The GPI distinguishes between positive contributions to progress (the building of schools) and negative activity (the building of prisons). It recognises voluntary and other activities that contribute to the _expression of positive social and cultural values, including all of the kaupapa that guide our party.

Within GPI, we see that time and resources given to family and whanau care are included for their positive outcomes.

The same can be said for marae and other community activities that include whakawhanaungatanga and the _expression of other values.

Health promotion is a positive; the use of time and resources for treating addictions, though necessary, is a negative.

The GPI is an indicator of net advancement and progress.

The Maori Party supports the development of GPIs for use at national and community levels (including whanau, hapu and iwi and district and regional councils).

So in this respect we are very interested in the advances of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment in working with the New Zealand Centre for Ecological Economics (NZCEE) at Massey University. The centre is looking to develop a GPI for New Zealand as a more comprehensive indicator of progress towards sustainable development than Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

We understand that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is contributing staff resources. We believe that the initiative by this Commissioner is exactly the type of innovative and proactive direction which we would expect to see from an office which understands the importance of independence, of integrity, the capacity to stand outside and make an informed contribution.

The Maori Party supports this project as an excellent initiative to bring about a 'sea change' (a transformation) for the better. We believe the shift to GPI will require a shift in perception and understanding among many people and organisations in New Zealand today, and we support that work.

We have a whakatauki which I believe offers us some inspiration in considering the issue of sustainable futures planning.

“Haere i mua mö haritaonga, waiho i muri titiro kau ana”.

Go in front for a treasure load; leave those behind that would only look.

What this means is that the person with enterprise, with courage, with a spirit of eager insight, will profit while the laggard remains empty handed.

Mr Speaker, GPI will offer us that treasure.

So too, will the advice from the outside breath of fresh air - the independent insight of the Special Rapporteur.

The United Nations report recommends that entrenching the Treaty constitutionally will create positive recognition and meaningful provision for Maori as a distinct people, possessing an alternative system of knowledge, philosophy and law.

This is a wonderful direction for the future of our nation.

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