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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Race complaint by Pakeha down

Complaints by Pakeha that Maori get special treatment have gone down.

Race relations commissioner Joris de Bres says that's a positive feature of the 2009 Human Rights Commission report tabled in parliament this week.

Race accounted for about 40 percent of the 3489 complaints received by the commission, with the balance involving broader human rights issues, such as the rights of seasonal workers and the right to education for children.

Mr de Bres says the complaints can be a good social barometer.

Maori continue to complain about discrimination in housing and employment, but the bulk of complaints to his office now come from Asia migrants reporting harassment.


A Maori business leader says Housing New Zealand has let Maori down by not building more homes.

Paul Morgan, the chair of Nelson-based Whakatu Incorporation and a director of investment firm Fomona Capital, says over the past five years a large number of Maori moved into the construction industry.

He says the downturn in the sector was worse than it needed to be because
Housing New Zealand failed to act.

“There's quite a few Maori have lost their jobs in the construction sector because of the downturn in work. That’s where our view came with Housing Corp stock, that they should have been ready to do new starts in the past 12 months, two years, and the way they are managing it it hasn’t happened, so very disappointing,” Mr Morgan says.

New house starts have dropped from 24,000 a year to just 12,000 in the past year.


Retiring Green MP Sue Bradford says the Maori Party has made a major strategic blunder backing the introduction of the Government's Accident Compensation reform bill.

Ms Bradford says there's nothing the Maori Party can do now to change National and ACT's privatisation agenda.

She says Maori will be hurt by rises in levies and cuts to entitlements, cuts in assistance to the victims of sexual violence and to the families of suicides.

She says ACC should go back to being a pay as you go system of social assistance.


The chair of Ngati Whatua o Orakei says other iwi with claims to Auckland need to strengthen up their mandates if claims over the city are to be resolved by Christmas.

That's the target set by Office of Treaty Settlements negotiator Michael Dreaver, who is trying to work out where Tainui, hauraki and other mana whenua groups fit into the picture.

Grant Hawke says Ngati Whatua took six years to negotiate the agreement in principle which was set aside after protests by the other iwi.

He says going through that process has given the hapu an insight into what the other iwi need to come up with to justify their presence at the table.

“I'm a little skeptical about it because the non-compliance of other groups in not having developed their core messages. We know we belong under the treaty or the process of the treaty. How do we belong,” Mr Hawke says.


The Human Rights commission has renewed its call for the Government to ratify the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous people.

Race relations commissioner Joris de Bres says despite the previous Government joining Australia, the United States and Canada in voting against the declaration, it is proving valuable to people working on rights issues.

“It is a good document. Yes, It is the subject of compromise and so on, but we are certainly using it in looking at indigenous issues in New Zealand and we’re using it as an important part of the basis for a new discussion paper we are putting out on the treaty and human rights in New Zealand next year,” Mr de Bres says.

The government has told the United Nations it is reconsidering New Zealand's view on the declaration.

Other recommendations in the Human Rights Commission's 2009 report include a review of constitutional arrangements to give greater effect to the Treaty of Waitangi, reducing the disproportionate number of Maori in prison, and developing a national plan to combat poverty.


The chair of Nelson's Whatatu Incorporation says subsidies for home insulation are unlikely to help Maori.

The Maori Party made insulation subsidies a condition for its support of the Government's changes to the emissions trading scheme.

But Paul Morgan says the money on offer isn't enough to help low income Maori make their homes warm and dry.

“It will be very interesting to see the uptake into Maori homes of these insulation programmes. I’m not sure if they will be keeping statistics. My gut feeling is once again we won’t get the uptake of the rest of the community. Probably those with median incomes or higher getting the subsidies and not the low income people, so it’s defeating its purpose in many ways,” he says.

Mr Morgan says some of the subsidy pool should have been earmarked specifically for Maori.


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