from The Jobs Letter No.119 / 6 March 2000
I had an interesting upbringing. I grew up in a beautiful village called Mangatuna near
the pa with my whanau, surrounded by the love and support of my kuia and koroua. It was a
predominantly Maori community rich in culture the culture of Ngati Porou, Te Aitanga Hauiti.
My life experiences are varied as varied as the people I represent in Ikaroa Rawhiti. I
have been a fencer, shearer, scrub-cutter, and printer. I have also worked in the upper levels of
bureaucracy, which I am now finding quite handy. My past has made me the person I am today. I
am the proud father of three sons and one mokopuna, I consider myself privileged in that I
have worked with all sorts of people, nationally and internationally, and now I am an MP.
As a Maori member of Parliament I have a dual responsibility: a responsibility to my people
and to the wider public. Unfortunately, when we look at the statistics for the people I represent
the picture is bleak. We feature disproportionately in negative statistics. Hohua Tutengaehe used
to say that Maori people are the most "reviewed" people in the world. There are reviews on
reviews. So we do not want any more reviews. We need to get on with the action.
- Education is the starting point for closing the socio-economic gaps. Although some
mainstream educators are making a difference, others need to get their act together. They must
strive to get more Maori to achieve, starting with early-childhood education through to tertiary
education, and they must do it with their Maori communities. Too many Maori are dependent an
State handouts, and we see families into their third generation of unemployment. There are solo
mums struggling to feed their kids. There are far to many young Maori men over-represented in
the penal system.
" Maori people are the most "reviewed" people in the world. There are reviews on
reviews. So we do not want any more reviews. We need to get on with the action."
I have known what it is like to get paid regularly. Sadly, there are not too many Maori who
know the joy of a regular income. Maori are the ones often hardest hit in times of lower
economic growth. In communities with high levels of unemployment and benefit dependency, people
generally experience unemployment as just one aspect of broader social and economic difficulties.
- In respect of Maori economic development we have to address several issues, especially
in the regions where business has been unable to provide the jobs that are needed. I think of
the East Coast and I think of the Tai Tokerau. The Maori economic base is generally tied to
fishing, forestry, and farming. Jobs In these industries have fallen because of new technologies and
restructuring. This has had a severe effect on the livelihoods of our rangatahi and parents.
Community development is about local solutions to local problems. It is about bottom-up
development tailored to local needs. It is about partnerships between the government, businesses,
and communities. It is about a holistic approach. It is about communities having more capacity
to deliver and do things for themselves in the fashion that they want and need. It is about
developing leaders and entrepreneurs. It is most certainly about testing innovative ideas, and, more
certainly for Maori, it is about allowing space, giving them time to settle down and do what they want
to do. There are many hard working volunteers in communities with no shortage of good
ideas about how to make things better for their people. Community development is about working
in true partnership.
- With a few exceptions, the Public Service appears to me to lack an infrastructure to
support Maori communities. Job losses have been the result of a right-wing ideology that has not
helped our people. The devolution model, which assumes that the market is ready and has the
capability to meet demand, has not improved the status of Maori. That has not happened under
Over the last 10 years the devolution model, based on the contracting out of services, has
been used extensively. It is a process in which the term of contract and compliance procedures
are dictated by the purchasing agency, often with little or no input from the provider or the
larger community that the provider is meant to service. From a Maori point of view, it is a process
that makes it easy for purchasers to impose their own definitions of the Maori world on Maori
communities and to force those communities to comply with those definitions. Albeit we have
a matrix of dysfunctionality within Maoridom. I want to impress upon this house that there area
lot of Maori who do know want they want, who do know what they need, and are more than
able and capable, given a fair chance, to do just that.
Let me go back a few years to the time when I was a schoolboy. I vividly recall walking
to school barefoot with my several brothers and sisters. Every day, whatever the weather, we
walked 5 kilometres to school and back. Although this may not have been unusual for Maori children
at that time, there was a certain irony about this journey for me. Every day we would watch
the empty school bus drive past us and our other whanau to collect the pakeha kids who lived half
a kilometre from the school and take them back to Tolaga Bay. This bus would pick them up,
turn round, and drive back.
As a child, the bureaucrats who made these decisions mattered little to me then. All I knew
was that I had to walk and that the bus was leaving me and rest of my whanau behind. I used to
dream of being picked up by the school bus, but as I grew older I and the others became more
resilient. We went from wishing the bus would stop to thinking that if it did stop we would not hop on.
I relate that story because it is often said of Maori that "we've missed the bus", but in many
cases Maori have not even had the opportunity to get on the bus. The irony in all of this is that now,
as an Associate Minister of Education, responsible for school transport, I am not only riding in
the bus but I an helping to drive the bus, along with my ministerial colleagues Mr Samuels,
Mr Mallard, and Mr Maharey. Rest assured, that as one of the drivers I am going to stop that
bus and pick up a lot of Maoris on the journey forward.
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