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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Maori health needs a low priority

August 25

The Labour Party says the government's decision not set up a working group to address pay disparities for Maori health workers shows they rate Maori health needs as a very low priority.

A working party made up of representatives from Maori and iwi service providers, the ministry of health, district health boards, and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation was recommended by a select committee, which included National MPs.

Labour Associate Health Spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway says employers in the sector would love to pay staff the same rates as they could get working for a GP or hospital, but they simply do not have the funding available for them to do so.

“All they asked was that the government look at this, that they looked seriously at the issues behind it and to set up a working group, have a look at what the issues were and see if there were any way forward, and for the government to turn around and say no, we’re not even going to do that means seriously Maori and iwi health needs must be a very low priority to this government,” Mr Lees-Galloway says.

He says it’s not cheaper or easier to be a Maori provider, as their communities are harder to contact, more rural, and spread out geographically, and do not access primary healthcare as much as they need to.


Labour Maori MP Shane Jones has leant his support to the government's moves to help Maori get loans to build on multiple owned land.

Last week Housing Minister Phil Heatley announced that the government will underwrite such loans so that banks are not exposed to the risk of default where borrowers don’t own the land.

Shane Jones who was Labour's Building and Construction Minister says any government that makes advances on Maori housing has his support.

“The difficulty is access to capital so if the government is prepared to be the lender of last resort to get building taking place on whenua Maori, or whether or not it’s moving Keith Hay homes on to whenua Maori, it’s got to be good,” Mr Jones says.

Man Maori are moving back to provincial towns where the transition is difficult so having a modern home will help greatly.


The Maori Language Commission is calling on Maori communities to build closer ties with mainstream schools to ensure their dialects don't get lost.

The Commission reported feedback from hui around the country yesterday as part of its efforts to develop a new Maori language strategy.

Chief executive Huhana Rokx says 80 percent of Maori students go to mainstream schools, and a lack of cohesion between iwi and their schools could lead to a more generic language being taught across the country.

How is the Maori language happening in schools sitting with the dialect into hose communities? Is the dialect being learned or the general Maori language being learned across all schools,” Ms Rokx says.

The loss of individual dialects would be a tragedy.


Maori party co-leader Tariana Turia is calling on Auckland Maori leaders to get together and work out a strategy to look after Maori interests rather than letting the government determine how Maori will participate in the Super City governance.

In announcing that there will be no Maori seats on the Super City Council Prime Minister John Key said ACT leader Rodney Hide and fellow co-leader and Minister of Maori Affairs Pita Sharples would be working together to address Maori participation.

However Mrs Turia told Urban Maori Authorities that Maori should stop sitting around and waiting for the government to make decisions.

“The mana whenua groups and yourselves ought to get together to work out a way in which you can take care of the interests of the people in Auckland, the tangata whenua and the mana whenua, and work out a strategy that may be in your own interests rather than letting the governemnt or other determine how you will participate,” Mrs Turia says.

She says in threatening to resign if there were separate Maori seats Rodney Hide was not acting in Maori interest but his own political ambitions.


And the government is being criticised for not treating Maori equally on another front.

One of the country's major unions representing nurses, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation has slammed the government for ignoring a select committee recommendation to set up a working party to address disparities between what health workers are paid when they work for Maori health providers and mainstream.

Chief executive Geoff Annals says there is no justification for providing Maori providers with less money to pay equal wages.

He says Maori and iwi providers have been effective in improving access for communities that are mainly Maori.

“That is such a fundamental issue that we have. We know that as a population group the health of Mori is poorer than any other ethnic group so we think they could hardly deny that the justice of the case and the importance of a skilled and able Maori health workforce to meet that challenge,” Mr Annals says.

The submission the nurses made nearly two years ago was unique as it involved a united approach by union members and their employers, and was a first in industrial relations.


Manurewa Marae has won a national award for its outstanding contribution to race relations.

The South Auckland marae has been named as one of 12 recipients of the Human Rights Commission’s annual New Zealand Diversity Action Awards presented by the Governor-General in Wellington last night.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says what makes Manurewa Marae special is the way it provides for the areas various communities not just Maori.

One of the events at the marae organised in the past year was a special toanga day where people from many cultures brought their treasures to the marae.


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