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Tariana Turia: Budget Day Debate

Budget Day Debate :

Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Thursday 28 May 2009; 4pm

 

Tena tatou katoa.

This is a significant day for the Maori Party as we consider the opportunities for tangata whenua that emerge from Budget 2009.

None of us were under any illusion that the economic and fiscal outlook would sustain a generous spending programme to meet every need.

All of the forecasts warn us that we are heading into a deeper and more prolonged slowdown with unemployment likely to peak in the middle of next year.  The reality of recession is felt particularly by Maori whanau.  And frankly I mihi to their resilience, their ability to be collective and their capacity to support each other.

In its most basic form, while the Maori participation rate increased in the last year, the rise in employment was similar to the overall employment growth – and we are talking between 0.5% to 0.7%.

But for unemployment, the contrast is stark.  We are currently sitting on an unemployment rate for Maori of 9.2% which is over twice the annual average rate for all persons of 4.5 percent. 

And we are particularly alert to the needs of our young Maori people, between 18 and 24 years; a group that has suffered disproportionately and consistently, not just this year in 2009, but in the ten years leading up to it.

These are grim times, and we must prepare for the certainty that pressure on households will intensify.

We are talking about families who have already had to adjust to a seventy percent increase in electricity costs over the last ten years; and an even more staggering 91 percent increase in petrol costs.

This, then, was the setting into which the Maori Party sought to negotiate to support our people to support themselves.

Our motivation was clear.    We wanted to soften the hard edges of recession for Maori; to protect those who would be most vulnerable to the weakness of the global market.

 

But we wanted to also position our strategy around the wider economic development, to prepare the ground for whanau to be positioned to be part of the acceleration once the economy recovers.

Mr Speaker, when our kaikaranga prepare themselves to powhiri, they will stand strong, summoning all their wits about them for the solemn responsibility of their role.  Me hangai to titiro ki te mahi.  Kei whati!

Keep your focus firmly fixed on the job in case you may break, or become diverted from the task.

This is how we have approached 2009.   We were determined to hold the line, to stay strongly attuned to the hopes and aspirations of our people, to do for themselves.

And so we are proud that we have succeeded in safeguarding some important policies and programmes, while at the same time achieving gains which will help to lay a strong foundation for the times to come.

This budget is a careful budget.  

For the Maori Party protecting the vulnerable was an important priority in our negotiations.  In the area of social services, we sought to ensure that the people would benefit from accessing their full and correct entitlements while at the same recognising our collective responsibility to keep the economy moving, to keep people in jobs, and to create opportunities to generate hope.
We welcome the allocation of up to forty million dollars for community responses to the recession.  In our journeys across Aotearoa we come across amazing stories of our every day entrepreneurs who are designing solutions for their own local issues.  The community response fund is an opportunity to support the people to devise their own answers to the needs that will inevitably flow as a result of the economic downturn.

 

The investment in infrastructure is another open door for our people.  The $7.45 billion is a create-work scheme on a massive scale – a scheme which will result in the construction of major projects, and in the longer term will contribute to the lifting of economic growth.

 

Our approach to Budget 2009 was also developed around holding the line on whanau ora.  There is nothing of more importance than thinking of the families who inspire us to build this nation in a way that takes their well-being into account.

 

We celebrate the healthy homes approach that has been achieved.  We are delighted with the $323 million allocated to insulate and heat homes built before 2000.

 

And we are proud of the commitments made in allocating $12 million over the next two area for the rural housing programme; as well as the investment opportunities signalled in the Housing Innovation Fund.  Two areas that Labour failed our people miserably in.

 

I met, this morning, with a small but devoted group of women who had pioneered the Ngai Tai Housing Project alongside of the Torere Credit Union.  Their approach was purely and simply that by working together and sharing the load, they were able to build their homes, one whanau at a time.

21 homes later, they are now able to claim not only a shelter for their community, but they are able to share success stories of 18 of their families enjoying full time employment and the pathway to further education.  That’s a real celebration.

This, Mr Speaker, is exactly what we mean by self-determination; by creating the destiny that we aspire towards.

And so within this Budget we are pleased that almost seventy million has enabled our kohanga reo and playcentres to benefit from the expansion of the twenty hours free early childhood education initiative.  Our policy priority has always been to boost participation in early childhood education for Maori who have traditionally low participation rates; and so this is a big gain for us.

And then we have twenty million dollars to extend the Te Kotahitanga programme in schools to ensure that teachers are equipped with the skills and strategies to ensure Maori reach their full potential.

 

Holding the line is also about creating the best economic framework to plan for Maori prosperity across cultural and tribal assets.

We are really pleased with the additional $4.5 million which will enable whanau Maori every opportunity to access te reo Maori in their own homes.  And we are glad that there is putea put aside to support iwi radio in meeting their operational costs.

This Budget brings with it some $22 million devoted to speed up the process and reduce the time it takes to settle Treaty claims.  We know that streamlining the process is a clear mechanism to achieve the enduring reconciliation between iwi, hapu and the Crown that our tupuna believed was possible when they signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

We acknowledge the close working relationship we have enjoyed with the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and we are especially positive about the opportunities for involving independent facilitators and the support for promoting chief-to-chief negotiations; both policies which we brought into the relationship with the National Party.

That relationship has been one which has been the road least travelled, but a road, nevertheless in which we have been able to walk together, in a way which has respected the concept of a mana enhancing relationship.

We have always maintained that every issue is a Maori issue.  We know that if the Budget doesn’t work for Maori, then that isn’t a good budget for New Zealand; and conversely initiatives that may appear to promote tangata whenua interests are also about promoting the unique and distinctive identity of Aotearoa.

And so in this 2009 Budget, we can see the influence of the Maori Party right across the government, including some significant gains achieved in our Ministerial positions.

The Maori Affairs appropriation has managed to survive largely intact, despite the rigours of close scrutiny for savings.

In my portfolios, I am so pleased that more than eleven million has been set aside to support those unsung heroes in our community – the informal carers – the people who support an ill, disabled or frail aged family member 

And I am proud too, of the support that will enable stronger engagement among local communities.  

This is what it is all about – he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

 ends

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