Lottery Grants Are Not a Race IssueInternal Affairs
"Labour MP Trevor Mallard should be very careful not to inflame racial tensions when criticising the Lottery Grant's Board decision to fund marae heritage and restoration," Internal Affairs Minister Jack Elder said today.
Mr Elder, who is also Lottery Grants Board Chairman, said Maori had every right to a share in the profits from the Lotteries Commission. Statistics showed only 7.6 percent of Lottery funding goes to identifiable Maori organisations, less than half the Maori percentage of the population.
"Mr Mallard's lightning political reflexes appear to have deserted him on this issue, considering the decision to establish the Marae Heritage and Restoration Sub-Committee and its allocation was publicly announced by me on 27th June.
"It has taken Mr Mallard three months to decide he is outraged by the decision."
Mr Elder restated the fact that both the funding for individuals with disabilities and marae heritage and restoration is being provided this financial year.
"This makes a mockery of claims one is being cut to fund the other."
Mr Mallard is also choosing not to tell the media it was his idea to cut funding to the Individuals with Disabilities Sub-Committee at the Board's first meeting this year.
The Board supported Mr Mallard's suggestion as it was in line with the long-standing policy which was confirmed by the previous Lottery Grants Board chairman, Peter Dunne.
"Mr Dunne initiated the development of a new strategic direction for ottery funding based around the themes of building strong communities and strengthening New Zealand identity. He saw a clear strategic direction as necessary to enable the Board to better indicate its priorities to Parliament and the community, and to address past criticism of lottery funding being distributed in an ad hoc manner or to oil squeaky wheels."
At the Board's meeting last November, chaired by Mr Dunne, a paper was presented indicating the implementation of his new strategic direction would require a major refocussing of lottery funding, Mr Elder said.
Initial consultations had strongly supported the return to the lottery distribution committees traditional roles of funding the initiatives of community organisations and groups.
"The natural corollary of this approach is the withdrawal of Lottery funding from the direct or indirect subsidy of central and local government activities, such as done by the Individuals with Disabilities Sub-Committee," Mr Elder said.
"Mr Dunne seems to be adopting a 'Famous Five' approach to this issue, with his claims of secret papers being kept from the public, although in United's case, a 'Famous One' approach would be more appropriate."
Mr Elder said he had made it abundantly clear that people with disabilities would not go without funding for mobility aids, and he would be having discussions shortly with the Minister of Health. In the meantime, grants would continue to be made by the Board until next July.
When the decision was announced to phase out Lottery funding for people with disabilities, Mr Elder emphasised there had been a big jump in the number of applications for funds, and the percentage of people receiving grants for mobility aids had fallen under 40 percent.
"Opposition politicians shold be very careful to avoid inflaming racial tensions in their quests for media attention. Already my office has received phone calls from members of the public saying lottery money should not be given to Maori groups."