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Meat Board Amendment Bill (Second Reading)

Meat Board Amendment Bill (Second Reading)

Hone Harawira, Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau

Wednesday 2 August 2006; 7.50pm

Last night I got told off in the House because apparently my speech contained matters not relevant to the Bill I was addressing. I didn't agree....but then I'm not the boss so I don't get the final say.

So, as I rise to speak to this Meat Board Amendment Bill, I am mindful of ensuring all of my korero today IS relevant.

This Bill says the Meat Board can grant access to quota markets to all meat exporters, whether or not they currently export meat products.

So, I wonder whether it’s relevant to bring up some of my vivid memories of the rank smells and the freshness of blood and offal on the Gut Floor of the Moerewa Freezing Works; my memories of being on the chain, the slashing knives, the hoses, the flash white gumboots, and the endless humour amongst those at the Works back in their heyday in the seventies?

Yes, it’s a personal memory, and yes it was a long, long time ago, but still, I have no doubt that it’s a memory I share with the 14,000 other meat-workers at the time of the 2001 Census, and the 32,000 sheep, meat and dairy producers all over the country.

And I ask whether it’s relevant that these meat-workers - many of whom were Maori in my day, and probably still are today - that these meat-workers should have a view?

Or for that matter, whether the Meat Industry Association, AgResearch or FOMA should have a view?

The Maori Party certainly thinks so, yet despite the fact that about 30% of all meat-workers are Maori, there were no submissions from anyone representing Maori interests in the meat industry.

We also know that despite our having a booming agricultural industry, which is forecast to reach $21 billion by 2010, there are very, very few Maori training in the field.

It is for those reasons then, that we believe it is timely to consider how Maori may be affected by opening up access to quota markets, and timely also to consider training and recruitment strategies to create a pathway into the industry for tangata whenua.

We ask how this Bill might advance Maori interests for the benefit of the whole nation?

And we ask how Maori might be encouraged to participate in this $20billion industry at all levels, rather than just on the chain?

Not that we’re sneezing at the chain gang, an association which goes back many years for Maori.

In fact, in a 1962 edition of Te Ao Hou, Steve Watene described the Maori workers at the Gear Meat in Petone. In fact my colleague, Te Ururoa Flavell worked on the Gear Meat chain. But getting back to Steve Watene - he went on to say about the workers - and this was probably before Te Ururoa got there - that they had a ‘natural aptitude for the work, and were ‘exceptionally good workers’.

They manage well because they are particularly good at using their hands, and enjoy doing so; this capacity to enjoy their work, especially when they are in groups (a capacity which in general is probably more typical of Maoris than Pakehas), makes all the difference.

Though they get on well with their Pakeha mates, they prefer on the whole to work in all Maori groups.

They are very good at the heavy work, like butchering and dressing.

The expert teams of ‘tally men’ are 90 per cent Maori, simply because Maoris are usually better at this work than Pakehas.

And we’ve been there in big numbers ever since, so the place of Maori in the meat industry is very relevant to any amendments being proposed to the Meat Board Act of 2004.

In fact, the survival and economic stability for many, many Māori families has long been linked to the up and down fortunes of the freezing works.

Indeed, the huge social disruption to the small Taranaki town of Patea, when their freezing works were closed down in 1982, has become immortalised in the lyrics of Poi E.

The break up of their close knit community and their attempts to deal with that, symbolise the confusion and struggle many Maori families went through as they were forced to go to the cities to look for work.

The lyrics by Ngoi Pewhairangi with music by Dalvanius Prime, describe the poi, like a fantail that flies through the forest, as a metaphor for Maori youth trying to find their way in the concrete jungle of the pakeha, and still searching for identity.

And so as we turn to this Bill, we have a number of questions to ask:

1. What provision is there for Maori meatworkers to make the transition to Maori producers?

2. What plans are there to ensure that Māori can participate in positive economic outcomes through this access to quota?

3. Whose views are being taken into account, and what particular groups of New Zealanders stand to benefit from the measures being introduced?

4. And how might Maori benefit from improved business certainty in the primary sector?

We ask because we know that some workers, like those in the Southmore Meat Works in Christchurch, are getting a measly $13-something an hour.

We also want to express our ongoing concern for genuine progress in our nation, because, as with any other bill, we need to weigh up the costs, and measure the benefits against the deficits.

Under the terms of a Genuine Progress Index, while we recognise that primary beef and sheep production are key features of our wealth, yesterday, today and tomorrow, we also know that that wealth is dependent on the exploitation of our natural capital - our soil, our water and our air.

I mention that in light of a workshop held a couple of weeks ago up in Tai Tokerau to discuss sustainable rural development; where Dr Morgan Williams, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, spoke on environmental sustainability, and noted that less than 40% of farm and dairy effluent discharges comply with environmental standards.

The meeting also highlighted the need for iwi to ensure that Māori concepts of kaitiakitanga were fully considered as an integral part of the rural sustainability agenda.

These are all highly relevant issues which must be accounted for when considering the benefits associated with opening up access to markets.

At the first reading of the Bill, the Minister trumpeted the fact that the social and economic well-being of Aotearoa depends upon the success of growth in agriculture, forestry and the related primary sector industries.

We remind the House though, that any likely financial returns from quota allocation, must also be considered in light of the possible impact on the quality of our environment.

Mr Speaker, the matters we have raised today, may not be matters that the Primary Production Select Committee bothered to consider, but they are matters that must be considered by all players in the industry - farmers, meat processing plants, meat workers, employer groups and unions, indeed, all the key players in the market.

It reminds me of the whakatauki

Kia mau ki te kura whero, kei mau koe ki te kura tawhiwhi kei waiho koe hei whakamomona mo te whenua tangata.

hold fast to the valued treasure, not the illusory one, lest you be left as fertiliser for the human land.

It’s a bit like ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ but much stronger.

It inspires us to value tangata whenua as good workers, ripe and ready to avail themselves of the opportunities anticipated by this Bill.

It also reminds us to cherish the land, the environment, indeed the whole world around us, so that in caring for our world, we know that it will care for us.

If we can open up access to quota markets while maintaining our commitment to kaitiakitanga, and to sustainable development, then we will all benefit from the economic and social gain, that comes with genuine progress for everyone in Aotearoa.

Tena koutou, tena tātou katoa.


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