Waatea News Update

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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Opposition is easy says ex-MP

Former Labour MP John Tamihere says a surge in support for the Maori Party shows the benefits of being in Opposition, but the party is yet to face a real test.

A Marae DigiPoll released on Saturday showed not only was support growing in the four sets it already holds, but it was closing on Labour Ministers in Tainui and Ikaroa Rawhiti and had convincingly overtaken Mahara Okeroa in the southern seat of Te Tai Tonga.

Mr Tamihere says it's easy to say the right things in opposition to win popular support among Maori, but Maori in government have a much harder task.

“When the rubber hits the road and you have to do deals, and that is the true test of whether an unblemished Maori brand can exist. It will in opposition, because it has nothing to lose,” Mr Tamihere says.

He says the Maori Party may be heading for a stumble with its constituents with its support of Sue Bradford's and-smacking bill.

BENNETT DOES U TURN ON VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN

One of National's Maori MP's has changed her stance on Sue Bradford's bill to tackle violence against children, meaning the Maori Party's support becomes even more crucial.

List MP Paula Bennett says what she sees as a ground swell of public opposition gave her no choice but to vote against the repeal of section 59 of the Criminal Justice Act, which allows parents who beat their children the defence of reasonable force.

Ms Bennett says she was conflicted by issue, but did not want to see parents criminalised for smacking.

“And I had over 3000 pieces of mail in a one month period, and I really sat there one day and thought what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to listen to your heart and listen to your head, and do what that says, and when I did that, what I heard was you’ve got to listen to the people,” Ms Bennett says.

The bill comes back before Parliament this week.

BRAIN BANGING BUG BLIGHTS BAY BIVALVES

Shellfish gathers in the Bay of Plenty are being warned of a potentially fatal toxin in the region.

The area's kaimoana is a vital source of food for tangata whenua in the rohe.

But Medical Officer of Health Phil Shoemack says high levels of paralytic shellfish toxins have been found between Maketu Estuary to the mouth of the Whakatane River.

He says people who eat the shellfish risk damage to their nervous systems.

“The sort of symptoms they might get might be tingling around the mouth, numbness, particularly of the face of the hands and feet, possibly if it got worse difficulties with swallowing and even breathing, dizziness, double vision, if it gets really bad, sever cases, paralysis, and difficulty breathing to the point of possibly dying,” Dr Shoemack says.

It's not clear what causes the toxin outbreaks.

MAORI ORGANSIATIONS NEED INPUT TO PRISON REHAB

The head of Prison Fellowship says iwi and other Maori organisations should be getting involved more with the criminal justice system.

Kim Workman, who is a former Corrections Department deputy secretary, says a major impediment to reintegrating former prisoners into society is a lack of support from whanau and the wider Maori community.

Mr Workman says the success in the health sector of providers run by Maori for Maori shows what can be done when Maori get fired up, but the Criminal Justice system hasn't engaged with Maori to the same extent.

“If you look at the criminal justice sector there’s a handful of people who are struggling on a pittance, and it raises a question for me as to whether some of those resources that are focused on forestry and foreshore issues and fisheries should perhaps be now focusing on morehu, the remnants, and working with those people,” Mr Workman says.

He says increased involvement by Maori in rehabilitation may create more options for community based sentencing.

STATIC POLL RESULT BRUSHED OFF

New Zealand First's Maori spokesperson says the party's poor showing in the latest Marae Digipoll is no cause for concern.

The poll found just over 5 percent of Maori would vote for a new Zealand First candidate, about the same percentage the party won at the last election.

Pita Paraone says the party is focused on 2008.

Hey man people have been saying that we’re dead party walking and all those sort of things, but at the end of the day there’s only one poll that counts, and that’s coming up in 2008. And the fact is, come the general election, people will look back at our record and say that New Zealand First delivered,” Mr Paraone says.

MAORI PARTY CONSIDERS SMACKING BILL

Maori Party MPs will meet tomorrow to discuss whether they will continue to support Green MP Sue Bradford's bill tackling violence against children.

A Marae Digipoll showing more than 80 percent of Maori oppose what is dubbed the anti-smacking bill.

Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell says while they will take the poll into account, the party believes it can win supporters around.

“When you actually explain out the intent of the bill, where it’s come form, where it’s supposed to be heading, people from pretty much all of the hui that I’ve been involved with in our three week consultation programme have basically turned around and not that we took a poll at the end but people are a little bit clearer abut the Maori Party’s stand and actually a hell of a lot more supportive of it,” Mr Flavell says.

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