Shipley Opens The Door To Ongoing Dialogue With Church

  • Jenny Shipley
Prime Minister

"Government Ministers and Members of Parliament are keen to work with the churches and other organisations to find practical solutions to social concerns," the Prime Minister said following a meeting with church leaders today.

"The issue of how to strengthen the weakest members of society is vitally important to all of us. Real solutions are required. Together churches, other social organisations and Government need to find solutions to restore dignity and independence, and give people a sense of contribution and self-reliance.

"Too often we hear the words disadvantage, disparity and dysfunction, but unless these issues are addressed in a positive and practical way, some New Zealanders will continue to be excluded," Mrs Shipley said.

Leaders from a range of religious denominations today took up Mrs Shipley's long-standing invitation to meet with herself, Education Minister Wyatt Creech, Health Minister Bill English, Social Services Minister Roger Sowry, and Government Members of Parliament.

"Ministers found the discussions constructive. Issues covered include major constitutional reform, and the five planks of the Hikoi.

"We discussed many Government initiatives that seek to deliver solutions. These include the Strengthening Families initiative, and the new Family Start programme which provides families with early, practical and intensive support.

"The extra support for rural housing was also raised. This initiative is designed to improve access to accommodation for low income New Zealanders in the East Coast, parts of the Bay of Plenty and Northland. We're also targeting occupancy rates for state housing properties to fill many of the vacant houses around the country, and lowering state house rents which will benefit the vast majority of Housing New Zealand tenants.

"Health and welfare issues were also covered and we agreed to discuss these further.

"Government has a responsibility to work within the country's means and we intend to continue to do this. Our door is always open to discussion with church leaders, yet the fact remains that any Government can only provide what economic circumstances allow.

"We have to grow the whole cake first before we discuss how to divide it up.

"The social concerns raised by the Anglican Church on its Hikoi are challenges which require all New Zealanders to work together to find workable solutions that our nation can afford, and this meeting made progress toward that goal," Mrs Shipley said.