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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Putea needed to turn talk fest to into fix

A Labour MP says yesterday's Maori economic summit will be just a talk fest unless the Government puts substantial resources into tackling Maori concerns.

Shane Jones attended the summit after host Pita Sharples reversed an earlier decision not to include Opposition Maori MPs.

He says the ad hoc nature of the event, which was organised on short notice, means it is hard to see it producing any hard-nosed plans.

“My fear is it will be a talk fest. I mean a task force is fine but we had task forces in the days of Tau Henare, and unless you have got significant budgetary assistance, and a commitment from both the unions and the private sector to help develop Maori so they remain economic contributors and not social casualties, then I think it will just be a talk fest,” Mr Jones says.

He says next month's main employment summit next month needs to include representatives from firms and unions who are dealing with Maori concerns every day, rather than just a few consultants.

HOUSING MINISTRY EYING MAORI LAND STOCKS

The housing minister wants councils to make it easier for Maori to build on their own land.

Phil Heatley says it is one of a number of issues he is looking at to make housing more affordable.

He says the issue was raised by Maori appearing before last year's commerce select committee inquiry into housing.

“Hapu and iwi groups are finding that papakainga land development is very difficult because of very strict zoning rules. Much of the multiple owned Maori land is zoned rural. Secondly banks are not prepared to back it because they don’t feel they have security across the land and I believe our government can address that and we are certainly going to be looking into it,” Mr Heatley says.

Much of the suitable Maori land is in rural and semi-rural areas, so the supply of infrastructure can also be a significant problem.

WAKA FLEET GATHERING AT WAITANGI

Iwi from the top half of the North Island are preparing for one of the biggest gatherings of waka since 1990.

Eighteen canoes are booked in for annual Waitangi regatta in the Bay of Islands in response to a tono or challenge laid down by Kingi Tuheitia at the August launch of Hector Busby’s new voyaging waka Ngahirakimaitawhiti.

Tamahou Temara from Toi Maori says six of the waka are from Tainui.

The largest previous waka gathering was in 1990, when 22 waka descended on the Bay of Islands.

MAORI HOUSING AN URBAN PROBLEM

Labour's building and construction spokesperson says proposals to make it easier to build on Maori land are a diversion from the real issues of Maori housing.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley has asked officials to look at the local body
planning restrictions which discourage papakainga housing.

But Shane Jones says the country needs 20 thousand new dwellings a year, and they're not needed in the sort of areas where there may be undeveloped Maori land.

“Maori are predominantly an urban people. You’re not going to resolve Maori housing issues by sorting out gorse riddled land in Ekatahuna, Ruatahuna or some other huna. The reality is it’s predominantly and urban problem and until the man comes up with a putea, a fund to meet the needs of all needy people and particularly Maori, then all he’s doing is playing diversionary politics,” Mr Jones says.

He says a setting a target of funding 100 houses for Maori a month would be a realistic way to make a dent in the problem.

WORKERS INVISIBLE AT MAORI ECONOMIC SUMMIT

The Greens Maori affairs spokesperson says workers were invisible at yesterday's summit on Maori employment.

Metiria Turei says the Maori Party erred by not inviting the unions who represent substantial numbers of Maori.

The Dunedin-based MP says while business growth is important, so too is protecting the existing jobs of Maori workers in vulnerable sectors of the economy.

“I'm disappointed I didn’t get an invite but I can see they need to talk with experts on this issue then that’s fine but I would expect that workers’ experts and workers’ organisations should have been involved as well,” Ms Turei says.

Hui participant Ngahiwi Tomoana from Ngati Kahungunu says there was a mood of optimism at the summit, as Maori leaders all saw the need to work together in true kotahitanga.

JUNE JACKSON STEPS DOWN AS MUMA HEAD

There's a change of guard at the top of one of the country's largest urban Maori authorities.

June Jackson has retired as chief executive of Manukau Urban Maori Authority, to be replaced by her son, former Alliance MP Willie Jackson.

Mr Jackson says over the past two decades the authority has grown with its community, and his mother has supplied steady leadership.

“Very proud of what she’s done over the years” run restorative justice programmes, got education programmes running and funeral business and driving school and I think she’s really made an impression with Maori in south Auckland. The realty is she’s getting on and she made a decision to step down. It’s good the board has supported me in terms of taking over from her,” Mr Jackson says.

The change of guard and likely extra demand brought on by the recession means MUMA has plans for significant expansion of programmes over the next year.

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