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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nga Tamatoa role overstated

Veteran politician Winston Peters is warning against overstating the influence of Nga Tamatoa.

The Maori Party co-leader, Pita Sharples, would like to see a reunion of the 1970s protest group, and believes its former members could still have a lot to contribute to his party.

He credits them with sparking the Maori language revival.

But Mr Peters has different memories of the group, many of whom were his contemporaries at university.

“Their clarion call was that the treaty was a fraud. Now, it is the cornerstone of every argument that Maori make. You can’t have it both ways. And I can recall some of the protests which were not impressing the people who were doing the substantial work, one of the key ones of which was the Maori Land March. Nga Tamatoa were not there at the start, were not involved in any way, shape or form in its reality. I know that, because I was there the night Whina Cooper decided to start that march,” Mr Peters says.

He says the revitalisation of the language was an initiative that came from women like Whina Cooper and Mira Szaszy of the Maori Women's Welfare League.

MAORI UNDER-ACHIEVEMENT WORRIED BUSINESS LEADERS

Business New Zealand is concerned at the long term economic implications of Maori under-achievement.

An international survey has found 75 percent of Maori don't have the numeracy skills needed to function effectively in a knowledge economy.

Phil O'Reilly, the business lobby's chief executive, says it's hard to build a high-wage productive economy when large sections of the community can't contribute.

“We can't afford to have a large proportion of our population falling behind in these stakes. If New Zealand’s going to be competitive out in the world, we need to be nimble, we need to be a knowledge sort of country, a knowledge economy. We canlt do that if we have large gaps of low literacy and numeracy, so it’s a real issue for us,” he says.

Mr O'Reilly says the types of jobs being created now need greater skill levels than in the past.

KAINGA AND CAMP UNEARTHED IN TAURANGA

The remains of an old Maori settlement and military site has been found at Tauranga Domain.

Work on a new athletics track revealed middens as well as a military trench, redoubts and rifle pits dating to the wars of the 1860s.

Ken Phillips, the archaeologist overseeing the dig, says it's a reflection of the area's rich past.

“This is the northern end of the Te Papa peninsula and there’s a lot of pre-European activity going on here. There’s a pa site at the end of the point and a lot of undefended settlement around the pa and then when the missionaries arrived there was further resettlement in the area, so it’s one of the busiest areas in Tauranga,” Mr Phillips says.

Tauranga hapu Ngai Tamarawaho is helping with the dig.

GREENS WILL SUPPORT WAKA UMANGA BILL

A Bill offering a new way for Maori to organise collectively is now before Parliament.

The Waka Umanga (Maori Corporations) Bill came out of work done by the Law Commission about deficiencies with existing trust board and incorporation structures ... particularly when it came to handling treaty settlement assets.

Green MP Metiria Turei says Maori communities can waste a huge amount of energy arguing about how they should organise themselves, rather than getting down to the mahi they need to do.

Some Maori commentators have attacked Waka Umanga as the Crown again imposing structures on Maori, but Ms Turei says the bill is a step in the right direction.

“We're going to support the bill and we’ll probably support it all the way through but it’s probably going to go to select committee and there will be a long period of submissions on it next year. People will be able to make submissions up until about March or April. If anyone does have real problems with it, we will hear about those and try to fix it, and if it’s unfixable, we can always just ditch it,” Ms Turei says.

REEVES PICKS WAY THROUGH FIJI MINE FIELD

Te Atiawa elder Sir Paul Reeves is trying to broker a resolution to the Fiji coup.

The former governor general and Anglican Archbishop of New Zealand confirmed he was in Fiji last week meeting coup leader Frank Bainimarama, but said we could not talk about the discussions.

Sir Paul was part of the team which wrote Fiji's 1998 constitution.

According to the Fijivillage.com web site, he was asked to make the trip by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

He also met with deposed prime minister Laisenia Qarase.

OUTSTANDING HEALTH SCHOLARS CHOSEN

Three outstanding scholars have been given a boost with John McLeod Scholarships for Maori studying in the health and disability arena.

Former Plunket nurse Rauroha Clarke is in her second year of nursing training at Waiariki polytechnic, physiotherapist Catherine Waetford is studying towards a masters degree in health sciences and Maori health at Auckland, while Bryce Kihirini is studying medicine and surgery at Auckland.

Mita Ririnui, the associate health minister, says they are all future leaders.

“This is not an award or a scholarship that you apply for. This is a scholarship that people nominate you for based on your performance and your determination and your commitment, particularly your potential to become a leader in the profession, so this is about promoting Maori leaders in the medical profession,” Mr Ririnui says.

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