RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga)… to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Does he stand by his statement regarding the Māori Economic Taskforce that “These developments led to immediate outcomes that have supported whānau through the recession… if so, why?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Minister of Māori Affairs):… definitely. The work of the task force has resulted in a number of demonstrable successes. Importantly, without these types of interventions, whānau and Māori businesses would undoubtedly have been worse off through difficult economic times.
The interesting parts came in the supplementary questions:
Rino Tirikatene: How can he stand by that statement when the median income for Māori was 93 percent of the overall median income in 2008, and has now, in 2013, fallen to 85 percent of the overall median income?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: The good news is—and it is not that good—that there has been a decrease in the last quarter in the rate of unemployed Māori, both Māori youth, by 2 percent, and general Māori, by 1 percent. But, you know, none of us enjoy this low rate, and, clearly, the country has to do more about it.
The Maori unemployment rate is (still) more than double the national rate. Maori youth unemployment is at “crisis” level with more than 1 in 4 Maori youth unemployed. In that context, a 2 and 1 per cent decrease isn’t remarkable. Add a decrease in income (in real terms) and ask if the Maori Party is at the table, but unable to insulate Maori against the worst effects of the global recession, what’s the point? If Maori are going backwards it undermines the at the table rationale.
[There is a point of order and Rino Tirikatene repeats the question]
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Despite the ventures that we have created—in export for Māori, trade training, and helping homes that are in poverty—this is the situation that exists. It is not good; none of us like it, but it is the reality. We are always the first off, last on. So this is what happens. While everything else grows, Māori come last.
I wouldn’t mention Maori exporting – the government cut Maori export funding in the budget.
If the “reality” is that Maori are “first off, last on” and while the New Zealand economy grows “Maori come last”, what’s the point of the Maori Party entering and remaining in government?
I take it that Minister Sharples is implicitly acknowledging that there are structural barriers, but he shrugs his shoulders at those barriers. Meh.
Rino Tirikatene: Why is he claiming that whānau have been supported through the recession when in the Te Tai Rāwhiti - Tūranga region and across Ngāti Kahungunu weekly real per capita income for Māori has fallen by 14 percent, while real per capita income for non-Māori has increased by 3 percent?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: It is very lucky that it has not fallen further. But, because of our interventions, it is in a better state. For example, trade training, Māra Kai, Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes, cadetships, marae—these are all things that we have put into place to take care of these things. We have increased Māori business exports, and when you do that the money trickles back to the hapū and the iwi…
“Because of our interventions…” Well, we’ll never know if Maori would have been better or worse off, but I’m prepared to accept that we’re better off with the Maori Party in government. However, I remain convinced that the Maori Party’s success is more symbolic than substantive. On most indicators Maori are regressing or remaining static. The Maori unemployment rate is double the national rate, 51% of prisoners are Maori and “costs prevented 23% of Maori adults, and 8% of Maori children, from visiting a GP” when they needed to.
To reverse 173 years of inequality Maori need policies directed across the entire economy (and society). Whanau Ora, Mara Kai, Warm Up New Zealand – as well intentioned as they are – are not enough. Whanau Ora, Mara Kai and Warm Up New Zealand are remedial measures rather than redistributory measures. In other words, correcting a consequence rather than eliminating the cause. That’s the problem the Maori Party faces: they’re treating the symptoms rather than the cause.
Life in Ford block, Kaiti, Maraenui, Mangere, Otara, Porirua and Wainuiomata is no better than it was 10 years ago. I’d wager that it’s worse. Kawerau has changed – for the worse. Whanau Ora, Mara Kai and Warm Up New Zealand – as well intentioned as they are – don’t reach most Maori. Not enough to create critical mass. Targeted assistance isn’t a panacea. Maori need policies directed across the entire economy (and society). Without it, I'll keep holding that the Maori Party's wins are more symbolic than substantive.