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Harawira: Meat Board Amendment Bill

Meat Board Amendment Bill Third Reading, 29 August 2006

Hone Harawira, Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau

Up north we got this little town with a big reputation. Moerewa, or Tunatown as we used to call it back in the day when the big AFFCO freezing works were up and running, and every man and his dog from all over the north had some connection with the Works, either as a worker, a farmer, a cuzzy bro' running a few shady meat raffles, truckies, whanau - everyone knew everyone, and Moerewa was a pumpin' little town.

And then they shut the Works down, and Moerewa turned to dust ... and over the years, ol' Tunatown got more and more run down, and less and less people stopped there, and soon people were actually going faster to get through the town and on to where "you're really going."

And then a few years back, this crazy wild-eyed preacher man called Ngahau Davis decided to move back to Moerewa, and "put it back on the map." And I can remember him bailing me up on the street and telling me that Moerewa was gonna do this, and Moerewa that, and Moerewa sparkled, and Moerewa rocked.

And I looked at him and I said, "Bruddah !!! Stop. What you on man? Moerewa is dead. Moerewa is history. Moerewa ain't goin' anywhere !!"

But with his raging enthusiasm, and a desire from some of the locals to rebuild their community, Moerewa has blossomed.

It ain't quite the bustling metropolis that Kaitaia is, but boy has it changed. Now you can drop in at the world-famous Tuna Café, go to Lori's bakery for their gourmet garlic, chicken and kumara pies, and get a beer at Klondikes.

They've got a skateboard park, an art gallery, a weaving workshop, a surf shop, and at He Iwi Kotahi Tatou Work Trust, Ngahau Davis and Co are building a multi-media production house, to graft onto their own little radio station.

As Ngahau says "The tools have changed, and now, instead of making money for somebody else, we own our own tools, and we're building our own future."

It's a long way away from the bad old days after the Works closed, when violence, crime, alcohol and drug problems, unemployment, youth problems, social problems and low levels of achievement suffocated the town. Welfare dependency was rife, and powerlessness and anger dominated the town. Mr Speaker, all over Aotearoa there are little towns and communities that have suffered the same fate as the big corporates like AFFCO, Borthwicks and the rest, bailed out. Whanganui, Wairarapa, Hicks Bay, Tokomaru Bay, Patea - the derelict remains of old freezing works are sad reminders of good days gone by. The closure of the works was a catalyst for many of the social problems suffered in these communities. Some, like Moerewa, have bounced back, and with amazing community resilience have injected vitality back into their worlds.

But for most, the radical down-sizing of these industries has led to massive deprivation, dislocation and depression.

Mr Speaker, it is against this background that the Maori Party comes to this Bill, asking exactly how tangata whenua will benefit from the amendments to the Meat Board Act 2004. As the independent Maori voice in Parliament, we take seriously our role of "defending Maori rights, and advancing Maori interests, for the benefit of the whole nation", and we want to make sure our communities are not dragged through the despondency of those days gone by.

This Bill means the New Zealand Meat Board can grant access to quota markets to meat exporters, registered or not, and we support the intention of the Bill, because the financial benefits of preferential access to quota markets will still be available to the wider New Zealand meat industry, and that in turn should mean positive economic outcomes and jobs, here at home. And yes - that may be a little optimistic, but we have to be. Our history in this industry is not one of stability - so mindful of the risks, we strive to improve our future job security.

Back in the heydays of the sixties and seventys, Maori were the predominant workforce, and the freezing works benefited from cheap, skilled, Maori labour.

We were there in large numbers - and with the 21st century agribusiness sector, we want to be there in big numbers too.

But this time, we don't want to just be the drones to somebody else's decisions.

Like Ngahau Davis and the people of Moerewa, we want to have plans in place, and build on the experience and expertise of Maori from the Maori Meat Industry Association, meatworkers, AgResearch, FOMA and Maori meat producers. The sudden closures of both the Hawkes Bay Farmers Meat Company at Whakatu in 1986 and Weddel Tomoana Freezing Works at Hastings in 1994 figured in a study, "Mauri Mahi: Does being made unemployed affect health? The Closures of Whakatu and Tomoana", the largest study of its kind in the world.

Ngati Kahungunu and Te Roopu Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pomare are also conducting another study, "Mauri Tanga: Long term effects of involuntary job loss on mortality and morbidity" involving around six thousand people, and looking at hospital admissions, cancer registrations, and deaths among freezing workers who lost their jobs.

Such are the massive impacts of forced unemployment on communities, that both studies are being keenly watched by world experts.

But it's not just the communities that have suffered - it's also the environment.

In one case, the Waitangi Tribunal reported the disastrous environmental damage of the Borthwick Freezing Works in Waitara, who used to dump their sewage straight into the Waitara River, and discharge their waste 1200 metres out to sea - no treatment.

The river mouth area and surrounding coastal reefs became badly polluted, and no shellfish could be taken from the reefs. Mr Speaker, in the Second Reading of this Bill, we asked that any financial returns from quota allocation, also be considered in light of possible environmental impact.

We know that the annual contribution of Maori primary sector producers to GDP is now very significant, Maori agribusinesses are performing well commercially, and the Agresearch Maori strategy aims to help Maori farms double their productivity, so we're talking big bucks here.

But even so, the very significant stake that Maori now have in the sector, must still be balanced against factors such as environmental damage, health impacts, and the possible threat of economic downturn.

Mr Speaker, the report of the Primary Production Select Committee noted that many submitters took the opportunity to raise concerns about the current quota allocation system, although it is outside the scope of this Bill.

In the same way, we need to also consider how the long-term projected outcomes in the primary sector, can be measured alongside other costs and benefits, because this emerging economy is not just about economic performance, but about social responsibility as well.

Along with the promotion of markets in the meat industry, Meat and Wool New Zealand is supporting a series of governance workshops, to help Maori farmers achieve their production potential.

We welcome these initiatives because they help us plan for future wealth, and take seriously the need for succession planning.

Mr Speaker, while the focus of this Bill is to ensure participation in and access to quota markets, the Maori Party is also aware that there were no submissions from anyone representing Maori interests in the meat industry. That is hugely important, because this House needs to consider how Maori may be affected by opening up access to quota markets, along with training and recruitment strategies, to enable more Maori to benefit from the industry. Mr Speaker, during the passage of this Bill in the House, we received a letter from a Maori landowner, who told us that Maori involvement as freezing workers - 80% plus - was a huge economic contribution to the success of the Meat Industry.

He suggests that quota allocation should reflect that contribution, by awarding Meat Industry Quota to Maori in the same way as fishing quota was allocated to Maori, based on prior involvement in the industry.

It's an interesting idea, and one that we would hope the Minister - along with the Minister of Maori Affairs - will consider. Maori Primary Sector Producers - Land Trusts and Incorporations - will benefit from improved business certainty.

On that basis, the Maori Party will support this Bill, but we will forever hold the symbolic association of Patea, Hicks Bay, Waitara, Wairarapa, Moerewa and other places, uppermost in our minds, as we look to properly count the cost of progress.

ENDS

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