Progress Towards Closing Social and Economic Gaps Between Maori and non-Maori

  • Tau Henare
Maori Affairs

The report, Progress Towards Closing Social and Economic Gaps Between Maori and non-Maori, provides government with a benchmark for monitoring progress in reducing disparities between Maori and non-Maori the Minister of Maori Affairs Hon. Tau Henare said in reviewing the report.

The report has been produced by Te Puni Kokiri as part of their role to monitor Government services delivered to Maori. It shows that although some positive gains have been made particularly in education, the gaps between Maori and non-Maori are not closing.

Mr Henare said that while the Ministry of Maori Development is working with mainstream government departments there has been no halt in government initiatives ``no great vacuum, but rather some really exciting moves.''

``In the critical area of education, as part of the Government's move to develop a comprehensive Maori Education Strategy, an intensive programme involving 26 hui and the consideration of more than 300 submissions has been completed. I am also eagerly awaiting a report from the Maori Education Commission which promises to offer some exciting new initiatives for Maori Education.

``In my recent visit to the UK, I saw just how effective and exciting their role-model and mentoring programme is in promoting reading, literacy and numeracy. We already have a great programme established which involves thousands of people in South Auckland - Ngaki Tamariki. This involves our sporting heroes: Michael Jones, Norm Hewitt, Peter Fatialofa, Aroha Clarke, Ruth Pirihi and many more. With the success I have seen in the UK I would like the programme extended to a broad-based national Maori education package.''

``The new strategy looks specifically at retaining Maori at schools for further educational achievement and adding increased adult/parental participation as part of the mix.''

``We have recently completed a survey of 1,031 marae and many have the potential and desire to provide strong initiatives for schools with such services as reading recovery and sports and recreation assistance. These could be provided under the community wage scheme.''

``Another key element in the report was in the area of employment and training,'' said the Minister. ``I am particularly concerned with the growing Maori unemployment rate, and the strategy my Ministry is developing will target Maori long-term unemployed, Maori employment linked to Maori asset development, Maori community development and Maori provider development.''

``Work has already begun on an ambitious programme to promote training pathways for Maori in maritime engineering and statutory marine skills such as navigation and seamanship. In addition the Te Ararau strategy, designed to put more Maori into training leading to employment has been really successful. So far 792 trainees have been contracted to be placed or are in place.''

``There are also some very positive developments in the much-publicised housing area.''

``New initiatives involving the support of major private sector builders and iwi organisations will provide break throughs in housing. For example, my Ministry is investigating options for Maori working co-operatively to develop a housing package with a major construction company in a (hapu) housing project.''

``The scheme is simple - and effective. A portable plant will be placed on site to produce the houses in kit form. Maori labour will be used to assemble and finish the 15 homes in the first development. The concept provides for the plant to be transferred to a similar situation in other areas where the process can be repeated.''

``Support for the initiatives is coming from the Housing Corporation and ETSA. Planning is underway for two major back-up schemes. These will be in areas of real demand.''

``Also Ministry staff have been working on developing the current rent to buy scheme for more extensive Maori use.''

Mr Henare said ``it was too easy to use the Closing Gaps report as a bludgeon to attack the lack of progress in Maori development. But the reality is that this government is committed to improving outcomes for Maori and expects all departments to generate policies and programmes which achieve real results.'' Some initiatives to date include:

the allocation of $7.5 million (GST inclusive) to the Maori Health Provider Development Scheme in 1997/98;

in 1997 there were more than 220 Maori health providers (compared to 30 in 1993), who received more than $40 million of health funding;

government has committed funding for a national screening programme for hepatitis B, a disease which particularly affects Maori;

free doctor visits for children under six, making primary health services more accessible to Maori children;

the Action for Health and Independence Conference, in October this year will have a particular focus on how to achieve better health outcomes for Maori;

an $8.8 million grant to the Poutama Trust which will be quickly reflected in Maori commercial initiatives;

Maori development commissions for health, education, employment and training, and economic development are active - providing us independent advice;

Maori exporters in the primary production sector have clearly indicated their support for the government's moves towards lower tariffs;

increased funding for Maori television and a Maori language strategy;

access to low deposit lending in rural areas which suffer from housing shortages and sub standard housing conditions, making home ownership more accessible for Maori families.

``And all the time the Ministry is monitoring the agencies who are responsible for the delivery of services to Maori.''

``The bottom line is that these statistics must be reversed and my Ministry plays an important role by monitoring the effectiveness of government's performance in their delivery of services to Maori. Our objective is to identify the successes and give poor performers the incentive to emulate others,'' said Mr Henare.

``Already the Ministry of Education, Health and ACC have been reviewed by my Ministry and given advice on how to lift their game where Maori are concerned. Today's report is another way Te Puni Kokiri can assist other government agencies to improve their performance and reduce the disparities between Maori and non-Maori.''