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Dr Pita Sharples: Supplementary Estimates Bill

(2007/08 Supplementary Estimates) Bill

Dr Pita Sharples; Finance Spokesperson

Tuesday 24 June 2008; 8pm

In my electorate of Tamaki Makaurau, the appropriations that relate to the expenses incurred and capital expenditure for 2007/08; are not what people are talking about.

The loss of three lives in South Auckland in as many weeks is what is on their minds.  The impact of the number of liquor outlets; the pervasive harm inflicted by P (methamphetamine); the hopeless grip of unemployment; the relentless fear of street violence and gangs.

If it’s not the wave of crime that occupies their waking thoughts, it’s the skyrocketing price of petrol; the rising food costs; the prevalence of loan sharks and pokie outlets that prey upon the more vulnerable members of their communities.

It’s the struggle to survive; the pressure of housing costs; the impact of fuel poverty – where households need to spend at least ten percent or more of their income to keep their home warm.

For these people, a contestable fund for deployment of marine energy devices will mean little in their day-to-day lives.  Nor too, will the projected movements in net assets for each Department and Office of Parliament.

That is not to say we in the Maori Party should not be scrutinizing the appropriations by which Parliament authorizes Government to incur expenses and capital expenditure.  

Indeed, the situation and environment in South Auckland propels us even more strongly into ensuring parliament is authorizing what the people need.

In Schedule Three of the Appropriations we find the Community Partnership Fund under Vote Community and Voluntary Sector.

Will this new investment enable the community change we require?

Will it address what editorials have described as the signs of a deep social malaise; the dangers of our indifference?

How will the community partnership fund restore hope to those inhabiting the suburban wastelands; those individuals who we describe as ‘brutally alienated
Tapu Misa challenges us to all consider these suburban scenarios with more compassion, taking up the collective challenge to care.  She said, and I quote from her:

“It’s easier not to care for those in prison, for the children of beneficiaries, for the poor, if they look different from us, if we can blame their failings on race or define them as the underclass”.

Is this where we have come to as a community, as a nation?  That we withdraw from one another, each becoming the nameless, faceless and feared stranger to the other - easy to dismiss,  to blame, reject, imprison; easy to rob, harm, to kill.

What will allow us to reconnect?  What will allow us to care about other people's children as much as we care about our own?  To care, rather than simply stop and stare?

We protest against the thugs on the mean streets; we talk up large on zero tolerance; we call for tougher sentencing; create petitions to allow parents to physically assault their children in the name of discipline; and still we complain that New Zealand is too soft on offending.

The Maori Party will not collude in the fierce battle as who can be tougher, meaner, more punitive in dealing to crime.

We truly believe that the answers lie in working together to make our homes, streets, neighbourhoods, our communities safer.

The solutions lie in creating more caring places in which to live.  Our urban jungles, fenced off by high walls and thick bushes; leading into dead-end cul-de-sacs; make for great places to hide, and even greater places to fear.

Of course better environmental design would have helped – but we can’t wait for the town-planners and the architects to make the change we know are necessary now.

Our care can make our communities more caring.  

We need to restore faith in our suburbs that we have the resources within ourselves to watch out for each other; to keep our kids safe; to strengthen the sense of community. 

If the Community Partnership Fund can do that, the investment will be well spent.  A Community Leadership Fund might be even better.  

The other key appropriation in this light is to Vote -  Internal Affairs, the significant community based projects fund.

The Maori Party is committed towards support for what we call ‘opportunity communities’.

Opportunity Communities are those who have never had the opportunity to reach their potential.

Opportunity communities, of course, are not just those in our urban suburbs who are subjected to high levels of poverty and then left to deal with the fallout.

Opportunity communities also respond to the short-sighted policy which stigmatised some 259 locations throughout Aotearoa, as “Limited Employment Locations’ – or no go zones.

The Limited Employment Locations policy introduced in 2004 was primarily to instigate sanctions against unemployment beneficiaries that if they moved to such locations, they may risk losing their benefits. 

Yet as research from Gabriel Kiddle revealed, in a case study based in Opotiki, one of the primary findings was that for Maori beneficiaries who chose to move to these so-called limited employment locations; the importance of ‘Home’ was uppermost in their motivations.

For these beneficiaries, the opportunity they were seeking in returning home, was a desire to maximise their living standards; and to take advantage of the social, family and cultural networks of their whanau, hapu, of their iwi.

And yet ironically, the opportunities they desired, were being denied through decisions made at the centre to punish them by means of economic deprivation.

The series currently on Maori Television,'The New Migration', explores in depth what a younger generation is seeking when they leave homes and jobs in the city and return to their roots, to their turangawaewae - and also the very real contribution they make to their tribal communities, and to future generations.

So when the Maori Party comes to the Supplementary Estimates Bill, we seek a commitment; a commitment that community based investment can be used to advance opportunity communities.

We seek an assurance that the unique social and cultural resources of communities may be considered as providing the viable infrastructure for developing greater economic potential.

It was pleasing yesterday, to learn of the support of more than $400,000 being promised by the New Zealand Bankers Association to help fund a trial programme in schools - to establish a financial literacy initiative in schools.

We would hope that theCommunity Partnership Fund and the Significant Community Based Projects Fund could come alongside of the country’s banks, to enable a more comprehensive, community-owned investment in financial education.

Finally, I was saddened by an article published yesterday, entitled Neighbourhood Botch, which demonstrated how people are losing their sense of security, by the reality of neighbourhoods facing inwards, failing to watch out for each other – neighbourhood botch.

A member of the Manurewa Crime Watch Patrol, Toa Greening, remarked that trying to make a difference, out there on the streets, is like a drop of water in a raging ocean.

If I could say one thing to all our brave heroes out on the street; our caring neighbours; our watchful whanau, if would be to remind us of the expression:

Tera tatou te pohehe he patuwai noa iho tatou i te moana o te ora, engari tera taua moana te memeha iho mo te kore o aua patuwai.

There are those of us who believe that we are just a drop in the ocean, but that ocean would be nothing but for those drops.

Each tiny drop does make a difference.  The challenge on us all, is to make sure that it receives the support it needs, to change the tide, and make the difference that we all seek; that we all desire.

ends

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