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The Mapp Report - 14 July 2006

Education is New Zealand's hard hitting solution

Politics is supposed to be about the ideas and solutions that shape society (though it is often about power!).

Two recent events put sharp focus on the evolution of our country. The first is that the number of people, especially Maori, who are in poverty has nearly doubled since Labour took office in 2000. The second is the tragedy of the Kahui twins. This has led to intense discussion about families and welfare and the balance of responsibility between family and community.

Many of the commentators are all too ready to absolve the Kahui family, not from being actually accountable for the murders, but for not realising they have better choices for their lives.

Honesty is essential in these discussions. Naivety about the aroha of extended whanau will blind us to facing the problems of welfarism, culture and violence.

Alan Duff, has written a very thoughtful piece on Maori under-performance for the New Zealand Centre for Political Debate ( As Duff notes, “Maori MP Dover Samuels had the courage to publicly state that Maori accept violence”. Duff says that it is fundamentally a question of attitude and education:

“Since Maori have not opted in large numbers to get a higher education, so do the outlooks and attitudes remain unchanged because enlightenment of self and the collective can only come from educated minds. After all, you don’t see Maori with university degrees beating up anyone. There is a disturbing anger common to far too many Maori that needs to be deeply investigated, like some permanently affected wound, as to its true cause”.

The politically correct left will, of course, say this anger comes from colonialism and past injustice. But, as Duff says, education breaks the link. After all the educated Maori person shares the same historic past as any other member of the whanau.

It is possible to change attitudes within people. One of the good things that Wananga o Aotearoa did was to get many more Maori into education – especially those who missed out at school. However, I guarantee that none of the Kahui family took advantage of any of these opportunities. To undertake extra education, you actually have to see a better future.

There is a common thread between the issues of poverty and violence. Breaking out of poverty means getting a job, but getting a job, especially with a reasonable income, requires education. The key is education, since this breaks the whole cycle of poverty, welfareism, crime, violence and dependency.

It requires standards at schools, it requires dealing with truancy, it requires parents and the community to make a wholehearted effort at changing attitudes towards educational success.

New Zealand has an excellent education system, but the gap between good schools and schools where students’ routinely fail is among the highest in the developed world. We can’t afford to have the bottom 20 percent be virtually illiterate, with no prospects of self-improvement.

Alan Duff’s “Book in Schools”, Lesley Max’s “Hippy”, the Waipareira Trust (before it ran of control) are programmes all about breaking the poverty and violence cycle. We need more of these private initiatives, which often have a greater impact than state run bureaucratic programmes. The Labour government believes all solutions lie in the state, but the truth is that innovative programmes rarely come from the state.

Giving more freedom of choice and more opportunities for education will mean a stronger future for our country.

Health issue gets a lifeline

On Tuesday evening IM Health arranged a presentation led by Allison Roe on sustainable health. Geoff Sewell (founder of Amici Forever) spoke of the struggle to improve the health of his daughter who suffers from autism. The audience was fortunate and enthralled to be able to also hear him sing.

An Australian doctor and nutritionist, Professor Brighthorpe floated the idea of “A Centre of Excellence” on the inter-linkage of nutrition, natural health products and environmental diseases. The whole purpose is not to put all the health focus on sickness, but also on wellness.

North Shore National Party is holding a policy meeting on “A Sustainable Health Economy” on 14 August at 7.30pm at Mary Thomas Centre at Takapuna. Speakers will include Dr Paul Butler and John Appleton of IM Health. This will be a great opportunity to hear a fresh initiative to improve the wellness of New Zealanders and subsequently create economic opportunities for our country.

14 July 2006

Dr Wayne Mapp

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