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Budget 2006: Flaming Torches and Tomahawks

Budget 2006: Flaming Torches and Tomahawks

Te Ururoa Flavell; Maori Party Spokesperson for Education

Wednesday 24 May 2006; 8.30pm

Tena koe te whare. Tena tatou Te Mana Akonga.

Last week, in a pre-Budget speech, Dr Cullen admitted:

“Budgets are a juggling act. But this year it seems it is not just a matter of keeping balls in the air, but also managing a few flaming torches and tomahawks”.

But the Maori Party is consumed with the anger and grief of Maori communities as they respond to the flaming torches and tomahawks that have attacked Maori, again, as they did last century; the sustained attack on our dreams and aspirations for education.

The flaming torch of colonisation is an image strongly associated with William Fox who regarded colonisation as one of the great adventures of the nineteenth century.

Fox believed that the Maori population was declining and that Maori people would be exterminated within his lifetime. Fox was convinced of the inferiority of Maori technology and culture when compared with that of the European. The best way forward was by integrating Maori and European into one economy and one workforce. On this basis, the government should proceed as rapidly as possible with the purchase of Maori land.

In June 1869, when Fox became Premier he sought to rule with a directive that the time had come to rekindle the sacred fire of colonisation that had almost flickered out.

The Maori Party has been revisiting these words, as we listen to the debate about ‘one law for all’; about “reallocation of existing initiatives” and in light of the Government’s failure to support the amendments we proposed to the Education Amendment Bill.

Our Amendments would have:

- protected the special character of kura kaupapa Maori;

- would have protected the diversity of early childhood centres like kohanga reo;

- would have offered land back to Maori owners - land that Maori owners had gifted to the Crown last century for education purposes.

We have thought about the fire of colonisation as we hear Labour MP Shane Jones defend the lack of any funding for Maori by replaying the 2001 hit song of Income Related Rents.

And we feel let down that the Minister of Maori Affairs didn’t even make a budget bid.

Interestingly, so bright is this flaming torch that even Labour’s former friend and Cabinet Minister, John Tamihere, has spoken out, calling the Government’s treatment of Te Wananga o Aotearoa “a big wake up call for Maori” about how Labour regards Maori Education.

Mr Tamihere’s assessment of the Budget was that it failed to meet Maori needs in providing fair funding for Maori run health, education and justice programmes; and that this would drive Maori voters towards the mighty Maori Party.

While we commend Mr Tamihere for his guts in telling it how it is; the great tragedy remains in the aftermath of the savage blows dealt to Maori by this Budget; and in particular to education.

Education - kawa, tikanga, whakapapa, whanaungatanga, matauranga - has always been important to tangata whenua.

In 1822, the Reverend Samuel Marsden observed rangatira children as young as four years old attending important hui, asking questions, and their elders answering as fully as possible.

In contemporary times, that passion for learning has been given further shape by the increased access to whare wananga, and tertiary education in general.

But last Thursday that passion was rewarded with the cruelty of cuts to the Manaaki Tauira programme, and Maori and Pacific scholarships.

Manaaki Tauira

Every year, over 9,000 students have benefited from this scheme, Mr Speaker. Manaaki tauira is a needs based initiative, with eligibility based on income criteria so that those students in financial need are supported. Each student receives between ten and thirty percent of their tuition fees -which translates to about $400 to $650 per year.

Now the Maori Education Trust receives 4.3 million dollars for Manaaki Tauira and half a million for Maori and Polynesian scholarships for Higher Education. The grants are administered by the Trust, a successor to the Maori Educational Foundation, a statutory body set up in 1961 to promote and encourage the better education of Maori and to provide financial assistance for that purpose.

The Auditor-General described the purpose of the Manaaki Tauira scheme as:

“to ensure that participation by Maori in tertiary education was not adversely affected when significant increases in tertiary fees were introduced in the early 1990s”.

Introduced in 1991, the purpose of the Manaaki Tauira grant therefore was to provide financial assistance to Mâori in tertiary education; on financial need. Note the emphasis is need, not race.

Last Friday, as Te Mana Akonga and other Maori student groups around the country met together in emergency hui. Some of the pressing questions arising from the budget cuts may possibly have been:

Firstly, Are Maori students not participating in tertiary education?

The Maori Party is aware of the deliberate process set up to control the unprecedented growth in the Mäori tertiary education market. Recent changes in the policy framework for the tertiary sector will preclude a return to the period of high growth in student numbers experienced between 2000 and 2003.

Mr Speaker, as this House is well aware, the existence of the three wananga has achieved what successive governments promised decade after decade but failed to deliver. Maori participation rates in formal tertiary education grew from just under 30,000 in 1994 to three times that with 94,474 students enrolled in 2004.

Notwithstanding the latest change in policy however, enrolments are still healthy with Te Wananga o Aotearoa forecasting it will enrol between 18,000 and 21,500 EFTS in this academic year.

So we haven’t been wiped out yet.

A second question may well have been:

Are Maori students no longer facing financial difficulties?

Last week a full time student, a mother of three, reflected on the impact of the axing of the Manaaki Tauira scheme and said:

“My whanau shifted away from our papakainga so that I could study. Manaaki Tauira helps with books and course costs. Manaaki Tauira is an important incentive to keep going, it relieves the pressures. It's not just students that give a sigh of relief when Manaaki Tauira rolls around - but, most importantly, it's the whole whanau”.

So often the rhetoric attached to any initiatives focused on Maori are that the Government is interested in need not race. How will the Government front up to those 9,000 Mâori students who are now going to face increased financial strife to buy text books, learning resources, study materials, and pay their fees? What rationale will be provided to justify the Dr Cullen’s tomahawk slashing off their educational future before they’ve even had a chance?

A third question to be considered could be:

Were there problems with the management of the grants?

To get rid of something, to exterminate, to terminate, one would think there must be some sort of problem.

We were aware that in 2004, the Tertiary Education Commission had raised concerns about the quality of the Trust’s financial management and the Ministry of Education’s monitoring. In response, the Auditor-General established an inquiry.

The serious concerns raised by the Commission were however not substantiated, but the Auditor-General did find that the Ministry’s contract management and monitoring of its contracts with the Trust has been variable, with specific concerns about policy and process, including variable levels of follow-up inquiry. In fact, the bulk of inquiry recommendations dealt with the Ministry’s mis-management.

So let’s get it right - it wasn’t the management by the Trust; or indeed the Maori students that are at fault. If we are to believe the Auditor General’s findings, it is the state - the Ministry of Education that was at fault.

And finally,

Are student fees no longer a problem?

The predictions from the New Zealand University Students Association is that whilst the government has increased the thresholds for fee maxima by 2.5% - and institutional funding has only increased by 2.5% - it is likely that there will be a funding shortfall in institutions - resulting in yet more fee rises.

The real question therefore, is given that the no interest on students loans policy is going to cost $600 million less than previously forecast, the Government had a significant opportunity to deal with the drivers of student debt - such as rising student fees. We have to ask Parekura Horomia - in pursuit of advancement of education and Maori Affairs -why didn’t it? What happened at the Cabinet table to allow this latest eradication to take place?

Mr Speaker, the government has taken away interest on student loans with one hand, and have slapped Maori students - and only Maori students - with the other.

In Vote Research, Science and Technology; for the third year running there has been no increase, and thus a cut in real terms, for Maori Knowledge and Development, and Social Research.

This is a Government which boasts it is supporting families - and yet by slashing Manaaki Tauira, Maori families bear the brunt.

The removal of Manaaki Tauira and the other higher education scholarships repeats that pattern of treating the unique qualities of Maori education with disdain and contempt.

We have to ask where will the flaming torch next take light and the tomahawk sever and destroy?


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