Disability Cuts Unrelated to Marae Grants

  • Jack Elder
Internal Affairs

Peter Dunne seems to have forgotten that the Lottery Grants Board policy of not funding the responsibilities of central government was confirmed during his term as Chairman of the Board, Internal Affairs Minister Jack Elder said.

It was this policy that lead to the decision by Board last year that it was more properly the responsibility of central government to fund aids for people with disabilities, and the announcement in May was only a continuation of the Board's earlier decision.

And Mr Elder said he was very surprised to see his predecessor had made a leap of logic to connect the ending of funding for individuals with disabilities with the establishment of a new fund for marae restoration and development.

"I'm at a loss to explain Mr Dunne's linking of the two. I would have thought it is rather obvious there is no connection given the Board has provided funding for both individuals with disabilities and marae development this financial year.

Mr Elder said he also wanted to make it clear that while a decision in principal had been made to end Lottery grants to individuals with disabilities from July next year, groups and organisations providing services to the disabled would continue to be funded.

"I would also make the point that the Minister of Health has indicated strongly during media interviews that Vote Health will take over the funding of mobility vehicles and aids when the Board pulls out at the end of June."

Mr Dunne seemed to be under the mistaken impression that funding for marae is a new initiative for the Grants Board. This is simply not the case. The Board has always provided funding for marae heritage and the development of marae facilities. But in the past, clients have had to apply to two different committees, with two totally different sets of policies.

"The Board made the decision to amalgamate marae funding into the one committee and at the same time to boost the amount available for grants in the interests of being fair and equitable."

The Board has commissioned a cultural audit earlier this year which showed that only 7.6 percent of funding was going to identifiable Maori organisations, which was considered not good enough.

"With the importance of the marae to the distinctive New Zealand identity and as an important community focus, it was considered appropriate for the Board to provide support."

Mr Elder did not want to get into a tit for tat exchange with Mr Dunne, but noted there were errors of fact in the press release the former Minister issued, including the claim children would not be able to get wheelchairs because new marae were to be built.

The Board has never funded wheelchairs, and it is envisaged the majority of the funding will be to maintain the facilities on existing marae.

The Minister also noted that despite Mr Dunne's claims, there are no secret papers, and the establishment of the marae heritage and development fund was announced May.

'This is hardly the 'shock, horror' story Mr Dunne is trying to make it out to be."