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Financial Review : Ministry of Maori Development

Financial Review : Ministry of Maori Development

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader Maori Party
Tuesday 18 March 2008 ; 8.30pm

At the start of this month, the Marae Digipoll of over 1000 Maori voters, revealed that if the opportunity arose, over 40% of those surveyed, would transform into Mozzies – Maori living in Australia.

And yet not one headline, not one letter to the editor, not one talkback radio show raged in response.

It wasn’t breaking news – it merely confirmed the study last year which revealed at least 100,000 Maori are living across the ditch.

My point is, it should have been breaking news.

Last year’s study – funded by Te Puni Kokiri – said that Maori believed they were pushed out of home because of prejudice and social dysfunction, and pulled to Australia by higher wages and better employment options.

Now having been faced with the glaring push and pull factors, one would think Te Puni Kokiri would be doing all it could to retain Maori in this land.

According to its annual report, the words are all there, and I quote ‘outcomes based investments that realise Maori potential by enabling improved life quality for Maori’.

Well, beautiful – if it actually meant something.

What the financial review told us, was that the Ministry had dropped the use of Memoranda of Understanding, to, and I quote, “lessen the perception that monitoring agreements are focused on compliance”.

We are told that for a similar reason, Te Puni Kokiri will not publicise or publish the work it carries out with other government agencies, as this may limit its effectiveness.

Yet again, this appears to be another case of this Government undermining the role of the public service, by being unprepared to stand by the professional, free, frank advice offered by Ministry staff. Yet again, this Minister is undermining the capacity of his Ministry to advise Government, by making them politically compliant.

The picture is hardly better when we look at individual sectors and votes of Government.

In response to the concerns of the Maori Affairs select committee about a key priority for Maori, housing and homeownership, Te Puni Kokiri told us that they were not in a position to comment, and to allay our fears.

No comment is supposedly acceptable.

Our focus turned to international and indigenous rights.

One of the most significant developments in the last twenty years and more, was the remarkable event last September when some 143 countries signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Despite wide international criticism of the contradictory and reprehensible position of the New Zealand Government, we were one of the four countries to vote against it.

And so we asked the Ministry of Maori Affairs how they could justify such a hostile position. The Ministry told the select committee that their official advice was to tell the Minister to abstain, even though and I quote again, “the principles of the declaration were right”. That’s what they said.

The Maori Party believes that the advice given by Te Puni Kokiri – in advising their Minister to abstain – was woefully inadequate, and that the fact that the Ministry of Maori Affairs neither undertook any leadership or consultation with Maori on the matter was disturbing.

So what does this Ministry do? Well the financial review confirmed that they have dished up some 410 investments in Maori potential; rugby and such grants that the select committee questioned as having been made on an ad hoc basis.

And we learnt also that nearly half of the overseas travel allowance for Te Puni Kokiri staff in 2006/07 was spent on one staff member – the General Manager of the Maori Trust Office.

The same office, we are reminded, that is seeking to dip into the pockets of Maori trust shareholders to the tune of thirty-five million dollars.

Finally, the financial review made the interesting observation that Te Puni Kokiri had decided to defer their formal feedback survey of stake-holders during 2006/07.

Well if the views of the participants of the Marae Digipoll survey are anything to go by, it was probably the best decision they made.

It would appear that the only thing that this Government is doing in ‘realising Maori potential’ is in their wretched belief that the only news is no news, that it is better to be silent and abstain than to publish and remove all doubt.


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