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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Friday, October 02, 2009

Electoral agencies merger "largely administrative"

Acting Prime Minister Bill English is promising to listen to the Maori voice on electoral reform.

The proposed amalgamation of the electoral commission and the electoral office has come under fire from lawyer Moana Jackson, who says it could affect the outreach to Maori voters.

He says the merger should be included in the constitutional review promised by National in its agreement with the Maori Party.

Bill English says Maori were consulted on the move.

“It's largely an administrative change and it would be stretching it a bit to call it a constitutional change. But I think to the credit of the electoral agencies they’ve gone to a great deal more trouble in the last 10 or 15 years to get Maori enrolment up and I think that has had a big impact on the political system,” Mr English says.

He says the proposed electoral agency merger is still open for consultation.


A Maori health researcher says next year's inquiry into the tobacco industry should also call successive governments to account for their failure to address Maori smoking rates.

Marewa Glover, the director of the Auckland Tobacco control research centre, says the Maori affairs select committee should boost prevention efforts.

She says others besides the tobacco industry should be made to account for their inactivity in the face of a public health disaster.

“What has been done so far to reduce Maori smoking. That’s what we need an inquiry into. Why have the interventions to date been too slow and at too low a level to stop Maori smoking sooner and in greater numbers,” Dr Glover says.


New artists exhibiting at next week's Maori Art market in Porirua are getting help to ensure their prices are realistic.

Tamahou Temara, the operations manager for organiser Toi Maori, says Maori art now has an international market.

That's why it helps to have a panel of experienced artists and curators vetting the work.

“Based on the experience of people like Darcy Nicholas, Coleen Urlich, Manos Nathan, artists who have exhibited internationally over a period of 30 years or so, they will look at the pricing and see if it fits the range of the artwork that is for sale,” Mr Temara says.

More than 200 Maori artists have signed up to show their wares at the Te Rauparaha Events Centre.


Iwi are looking ahead to a good year in the fishing business.

The season started yesterday, and most iwi asset holding companies will be leasing out their quota over the next couple of weeks.

Tony Magner from Hamilton-based brokers Tahi Marine says the sector has settled down now iwi own quota rather than leasing it year by year from Te Ohu Kaimoana.

He says they will also be bouyed by a 22 percent boost in the total allowable catch for hoki, the largest commercial species.

“It'll improve returns. You’ve got a bigger volume of fish to work with. Five, six years ago it was 250,000 tonne. Various biological things has meant it was reduced down to 90,000 tonne but the fish stock was proven to be quite buoyant now so they’ve increased it to 110,000 tonne this season,” Mr Magner says.

Up to 40 percent of iwi fisheries earnings could come from pan-Maori seafood company Aotearoa Fisheries, which is required to pay a dividend for the first time this financial year.


Labour's Maori affairs spokesperson says many Maori aren't getting good advice from legal aid lawyers when they end up in court.

Former social welfare director general Dame Margaret Bazley is conducting an inquiry into the legal aid system.

Pakekura Horomia many young Maori are pleading guilty and ending up with criminal records because lawyers won't look for mitigating circumstances or push for alternate sentences.

“A lot of advice given to our people who are up on charges isn’t of top quality and I know of some court areas where people are just getting them to plead guilty or whatever and I don’t believe a lot of our people are getting decent service,” Mr Horomia says.


Auckland's Ngati Whatua iwi is upset its Queens Wharf redevelopment proposal has been ignored.

The iwi wasn't one of eight finalists chosen to tart up the wharf for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Environment manager Ngarimu Blair says Ngati Whatua wants a Maori and Pacific Island cultural centre built on the site.

He says none of the finalists reflect the Maori and Polynesian heritage of Tamaki Makaurau.

“So we were unsuccessful with our idea and I guess we’re hoping for an Auckland one day that will be open to embracing their Maori and Pacific Island brothers more so than just writing it down on a strategic planning document stuck away in a council office somewhere,” Mr Blair says.

Ngati Whatua's vision was for a place where visitors and cruise ships would get a welcoming powhiri from the city's best performers.


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