INDEPENDENT NEWS

Sharples: Budget Policy Statement

Published: Wed 28 Feb 2007 05:16 PM
Budget Policy Statement
Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party
Wednesday 28 February 2007; 4.20pm
Today is a day of reckoning for iwi Maori.
It makes for fascinating timing to be debating the Budget Policy Statement for 2007 in a day swirling with Court action, injunction, repossession and tribal calls for rangatiratanga hot in our ears.
This morning, at 9am, the Hauraki Maori Trust Board sought an urgent hearing in the High Court in Wellington for an interim injunction preventing the sale of the 1100 hectare Whenuakite Station, near Whitianga; and we understand a hearing has been called for this Friday; and that Minister Mallard has intervened.
An hour later, the Minister of Maori Affairs, witnessed by our co-leader, Tariana Turia, signed a deed of settlement with Whanganui Iwi to formalise the transfer of the Whanganui Courthouse to the iwi.
An auspicious day to do so, marking the day some twelve years ago in 1995 when Whanganui Maori repossessed the site of Pakaitore out of frustration with the lack of progress with their land claim.
A call for action which spanned some 79 days before it was evident that resolution of their claims could be taken up with the Crown.
Against such a context, to read that the Government’s Budget intentions for 2007 and future years are underpinned by the values of fairness, opportunity and security is indeed ironic.
How fair is it for tangata whenua to be dispossessed of their sovereignty, to be stripped of their identity and their resource base?
What opportunity does the Treaty partner have to express the ongoing concerns about the process of negotiating Treaty Settlements - the terms of settlement, the amount set aside for settlement, and the agency charged with managing settlements?
What security can Maori ever enjoy, when they know that the Government keeps to a fixed formula which puts aside a mere $1 billion for treaty settlements – despite the fact that the 2005 Budget listed a surplus of $7 billion.
The Budget Policy Statement, in referring to the Current economic situation, refers to the concerns of Federated Farmers who noted that farmers’ confidence has fallen to a ten year low.
The Maori Party is also aware of the concerns that farmers have raised about the actions of Government and state owned enterprises, including the country’s biggest farmer, Landcorp.
In an article last October, in New Zealand Farmers Weekly, the opinion of farmers was clearly put. In referring to Tuwharetoa’s experience with the 1500 hectare Taurewa block south of Turangi, Landcorp Chief Executive Chris Kelly, referred to progress as moving at a ‘glacial pace’ – staggeringly slow, even under the threat of global warming.
To summarise the views of farmers, I quote:
“Landcorp [is] not winning many plaudits among rural landowners or Maori in the region during the past 12 months”.
It is because of this long-standing, ongoing frustration, that this morning, the Maori Party has declared our support to listen to the intentions of iwi, and to do what we can to advance their call for justice in this fraught area.
We well understand the building resentment and concerns from iwi, who are determined to follow due process, to take their concerns through the appropriate hoops – and yet are frequently being blocked.
No go, no show, no dough budget
One would think, in the climate of a crisis of confidence, that attention would be given to making a difference, through strategic investment. And yet the Policy Statement confirms, ‘there will be little room for new Government expenditure in this year’s Budget’.
Mr Speaker, the reoccurring theme of Budget statements for Maori has been ‘no go; no show; no go; no dough”.
The 2006 Budget was the one where the Minister of Maori Affairs failed to even ask for any allocation for Maori. I remember the day he told the select committee that on the advice of his Chief Executive, he failed to submit any bid for new spending. No go.
But it was worse than performance anxiety – one of the biggest groups to actually lose out from last year’s Budget was Maori tertiary students who lost $2.1 million dollars from Maori student scholarship funding, with the announcement that the Manaaki Tauira funding was cut.
That’s about 9000 Maori students – who since 1991, have been supported each year, with financial assistance for student support.
The Budget before that was the No Show budget – when the word ‘Maori’ didn’t even appear once.
So when we read on page 5 of the report of the Finance and Expenditure Committee that there will be no dough in 2007 – that ‘things were extremely tight’; it’s not as if we haven’t been here before.
Moral and Social Responsibility
Mr Speaker, the reality is, the 2007 Budget must heed the advice – as the Select Committee reported it – of the Public Health Association that a whole of Government approach is required to improve the social wellbeing of New Zealanders.
Over the last eighteen months, we have tried to bring the voices of the Treaty partner to this House. We have highlighted the abject poverty, the growing disparities between haves and have-nots, as part of the context in which too many Maori live.
Early last year the United States Department Report on Human Rights Practices in New Zealand, submitted to the United States Congress a report card on New Zealand, which highlighted the, and I quote:
“continuing pattern of disproportionate numbers of Maori on unemployment and welfare rolls, in prison, among school dropouts, in infant mortality statistics, and among single-parent households”.
Mid last year, the Living Standards Report described Māori and Pasifika peoples, beneficiaries and low-income families with children as showing significant increases in the proportions of people in "severe hardship”.
We have had other reports, which describe Maori patients as being at a “higher risk of preventable adverse events in hospital than did patients of non-Maori, non-Pacific origin”; and being “more likely to receive sub-optimal care”.
It’s not much better in the education sector – with an unacceptably high rate of Maori student expulsions and suspensions; a dramatic increase in Maori truancy rates; and statistics for Maori school-leavers who exit school without even a level one NCEA qualification.
The failure of the schooling system to cater for Maori is demonstrated in the data showing that 53% of Maori boys; and 45% of Maori girls leave school without gaining Level One NCEA qualifications.
On top of all that, the Budget Policy Statement confirms the significant problem of children being underfed which has emerged, due to what the report describes as ‘inadequate family incomes, and the proportion of incomes being spent on housing’.
The Minister of Finance told that Committee that if you only concentrate on one measure at the exclusion of others, you may well end up with policies which are not maximising overall welfare.
The Maori Party absolutely agrees with this advice – and accordingly we will be looking for targeted outcomes which do indeed address the widespread disparities in social opportunities and goals.
In actual fact, we would recommend that in light of the dismal performance to date, it could well be useful for an ‘Outcomes for Maori’ section to be specifically included in the Budget to actually be straight up about the commitment to raise living standards.
We want to see explicit proof of funding targeted towards Maori immersion education – which provides the experiences of success our whanau deserve.
We want to see allocation made to address the income issues of the working poor; and to assist our most vulnerable citizens, benefit dependent families who are not accessing Working for Families. We would be interested in receiving a cost analysis of what benefits could be expected from removing tax on employment, DPB, sickness and invalids benefits.
Finally, Mr Speaker, I want to note the comments referred to in the Committee’s report about sustainability and carbon neutrality.
The Maori Party is of course alarmed to read, and I quote:
“The Minister told us that resources would have to be found elsewhere to implement the Government’s commitments in this area, but that they would not include a large component of spending in the next year”.
Resources found elsewhere? Is this code for sausage sizzles or cake stalls outside the Beehive – or perhaps we could all have a whip around to do something about climate change.
Mr Speaker, either we are serious about developing a strategic approach to ensure the well-being and future health of the environment, or we are not.
The Maori Party believes in the efficient use of water, the conservation of energy, and the need for active environmental management. And we know that investment now is necessary to ensure long term gain.
We will not stand by and witness more empty words, policy platitudes and no go/no dough budgets.
Let us take today, Pakaitore Day, as a signal to make a real commitment to achieving change.
ENDS

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