Waatea News Update

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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hawea Vercoe killed in Whakatane street

Bay of Plenty Maori are devastated with the death of Hawea Vercoe who was killed in a scuffle in Whakatane on Saturday night.

Te Arawa trust board chairman Toby Curtis says even though only 36 years old, the Rotoiti Kura Kaupapa principal had already established himself as a leader of his people as an Environment Bay of Plenty councilor and a member of Rotorua District Council's Te Arawa standing committee.

“Hawea was at the very forefront in terms of some of the educational initiatives that were sorely needed in Te Arawa. What he has achieved to date has surely benefited the whole of New Zealand. We’re going to miss him intensely because he’s one of the people who the whole of Te Arawa was starting to nurture, foster, in order that he would advance the great works of the past by our previous leaders and take us well into the future,” Mr Curtis says.

He says Mr Vercoe was just getting over a difficult period including the break up of his marriage, a court case over an altercation his former wife's new partner, and a shoplifting charge which was thrown out of court.


Labour's tertiary education spokesperson says Education Minister Anne Tolley's overhaul of the way polytechnics are governed could be the next big test of the Maori party's allegiance to National.

Maryan Street says a bill now before parliament gets rid of Maori representation on polytech councils.

That's despite the fact polytechs are the major provider of training for industries which employ large numbers of Maori, such a forestry, fishing and agriculture.

“For all that they talk about their relationship with the Maori Party and how well that’s going, they cannot make any distinctive provision or even appropriate provisions for Maori in education where it counts,” Ms Street says.

Maori should put pressure on the Maori Party to stand up for their interests.


Ngapuhi is looking forward to an overhaul of social service delivery which will give a greater role to iwi.

Runanga chair Sonny Tau says uncertainty in the sector, including government agencies cutting contracts after the election, means Ngapuhi Iwi Social Services had a $400,000 shortfall last financial year.

He says the whanau ora policy being developed by associate health and social development minister Tariana Turia should spell an end to the current situation where several government agencies can deal with the same whanau with no coordination between them.

“Tariana's approach is that combined iwi organisations will be used as a banking service and the service providers will be chopped back because there will be no duplication of administration. A lot of the money that is being duplicated on organisational structures will be chopped out. It’s not about the provider any more. It’s about the whanau,” Mr Tau says.

While Ngapuhi is waiting for the new policy to come through, it is watching costs and cutting back on activities so it can manage its way through the tough economic environment.


The government is giving polytechnics the super city treatment.

Guaranteed Maori representation on polytech councils has been cut in the version of a reform bill reported back to parliament last week by the Education and Science select committee.

Maryan Street, Labour's tertiary education spokesperson, says Maori need a place at the top table when important strategic decisions are made.

“Cutting iwi representation out of polytech councils, taking away this guaranteed position, is a slap in the face for iwi and a slap in the face for all those Maori who are trying hard to better themselves to overcome disadvantages they had first time round in education and having another crack,” Ms Street says.

Maori representatives have helped steer polytechs to provide training in many of the sectors which are big employers of Maori, such as farming and forestry.


The kura kaupapa where Maori leader Hawea Vercoe was principal will be open today to look after the children who simply loved their tumuaki.

Te Kura Kaupapa o Te Rotoiti board member Justin Roberts says the kura considered closing for the day following the tragic death of Mr Vercoe during an altercation in the streets of Whakatane night.

He says those among the schools 90 students who have heard about his death are absolutely devastated as are the elders faced with consoling them.

“With the tragedy that has taken place the difficulty of informing many of our whanau because they’re spread over such a wide area, we want to make sure everyone is informed and to sit with the children and support them through the grieving process,” Mr Roberts says.

The tangi for Mr Vercoe, who was of Te Arawa and Ngati Awa descent, is being held in Te Teko.


Doctors who have attacked National's proposed emissions trading scheme say they're getting massive support from colleagues and the public.

The climate and health group Ora Taiao told politicians last week the changes would be disastrous to Maori health.

Coordinator Rhys Jones says the only criticism of their lobbying has come from climate change skeptics, and health professionals are queuing up to join the group.

"Some of the price shifts and some of the costs re going to adversely impact on Maori whanau and some of our more vulnerable communities, mostly because the extra funding our government and taxpayers are going to have to put into the emissions trading scheme means that there is going to be much less for some of the critical health and social services,” Dr Jones says.

A responsible emissions trading scene would penalise polluters rather than put the cost of tackling climate change on ordinary people.


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