Closing the gaps: giving all New Zealanders a chance to participatePrime Minister
Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that the government's determination to close the economic and social gaps which have developed between Mäori and Pacific people and other New Zealanders, is vividly reflected in the Budget.
"The government has identified these gaps as one of the greatest challenges facing the country," Helen Clark said.
"Unless we start addressing this problem we will permanently consign a section of our people to the economic scrapheap, and risk a breakdown of social order and cohesion.
"No country can get ahead if a significant proportion of its citizens are left behind.
"The task before us is huge. There is a legacy of entrenched poverty, of second and third generation unemployment and under-employment, of poor health, inadequate housing and low educational achievement
"As well as seeking better economic and social outcomes for Mäori and Pacific peoples, we must build the capacity of those people and their organisations to devise their own programmes.
"I am delighted that today we are announcing $29.131million for capacity-building programmes in 2000/01 across a range of votes. This means strengthening the capability of Mäori and Pacific communities to achieve their aspirations.
Te Puni Kokiri will receive $2.95 million in 2000/01 and $3.1 million in out years so it can work with Mäori organisations as they plan their capacity-building programmes.
"Some $20.467 million over four years will be spent on enabling whanau, hapu and iwi groups to strengthen their development as providers of employment services.
"The Budget reflects a strong commitment to investment in the young of our Mäori and Pacific communities.
"Higher educational achievement for Mäori is a critical challenge. That is why the government is funding a raft of initiatives totalling $39.92 million in 2000/01, rising to $53.85 million in out years.
"For example, we are committing $19.969 million over four years to strengthening the quality of Mäori language education. Over the same period $12.86 million will be allocated to increasing the number of teachers of Maori.
"The government will also be spending $3.584 million on increasing the number of Pacific island teachers, which, along with expenditure of $7.25 million over four years on increasing the Pacific Pool of Discretionary Grants Scheme, will boost the number of places available in Pacific early childhood centres.
"A critical component of the closing the gaps exercise is to improve accountability from the state sector when working towards better economic and social outcomes for Mäori and Pacific peoples.
"To help achieve that Te Puni Kokiri is running audits on the effectiveness of government programmes in delivering to Maori. In the 2000/01 year operating funding of $2.175 million in Vote Mäori Affairs has been provided for these audits, rising to $3.314 million in out years.
"Several initiatives will help low socio-economic groups, of which a large proportion are Mäori and Pacific peoples.
"In the housing area, for instance, $55.058 million is being allocated in 2000/01 for income-related rents for low income state tenants. This will increase to $109.856 million in out years.
"And in the health area, the government has committed $20 million over four years for smoking cessation programmes aimed specifically at Maori, who have a grossly disproportionate high rate of smoking related diseases and deaths.
"These programmes and others will help the government work towards a set of objectives that we are giving the highest priority. That is why I am chairing the cabinet committee on closing the gaps and throwing the weight of my office behind these programmes.
"Closing the appalling gaps will not be easy. But we have to make a start in the interests of all New Zealanders, and today's Budget does that," Helen Clark said.