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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Friday, July 16, 2010

Maori Party balks at worker slap-down

Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell says the Maori Party will oppose any move by the government moves to give larger firms the power to put new staff on 90 day probation.
The Prime Minister, John Key, is expected to announce a part of a raft of changes to workplace laws in a speech to the National Party conference in Auckland on Sunday.

Mr Flavell says when National gave employers in firms with under 20 staff the right to lay off staff in the first three months without explanation, the Maori Party hoped it would mean more companies would give young Maori workers a start.

“It hasn't achieved that goal because the unemployment for Maori remains still very high and in fact it’s increased over the two years that the bill’s been place so in that regard you might say maybe the Maori people have been the cannon fodder for this particular bill and therefore we cannot not oppose it because it hasn’t achieved the goal we want and that is to get our people into work,” Mr Flavell says.


The Minister of Social Development says a new supervised group home for troubled youth will try to help help rangatahi with their Maori connections.

The home which opened in Mangere this morning is the first of 12 and will house up to five young people from 12 to 17 for up to six months.

Its professional live-in staff include youth workers, psychologists and social workers.

Paula Bennett says it's probable many of those referred to the homes will be Maori, even if their understanding of Maoritanga is limited

“Sometimes they do need to be away from whanau a bit to try and get them selves together and work how they are going to work with some of that behaviour problems they’ve got. There’s strong links with kaumatua and our staff are Maori predominantly and it’s important for us they maintain that connection and strengthen it because in some case that’s what’s led to that behaviour, that they’ve lost that connection to whanau,” Ms Bennett says.


The author of a book on early Maori Anglican churches says the early collaborations between missionaries and their congregations provided a template for the later wharenui or large meeting house.

Dr Richard Sundt from the University of Oregon is in New Zealand to launch his book Whare Karakia: Maori Church Building Decoration and Ritual in Aotearoa New Zealand.

He says Rangiatea in Otaki, which has been rebuilt after being totally destroyed by fire, is indicative of the monumental structures built all over New Zealand soon after the treaty.

“It was really exciting moment where they were pressing the structural issues and the technology to build these and some people like Hirini Moko Mead and Roger Neich have seen in these large whare-style churches of the 1840s to 1860s setting the ground for the larger meeting houses that were built in the late 19th century like Hokonio, Tokangaui a Noho,” Professor Sundt says.

Whare Karakia is published by Auckland University Press


Unite Union head Matt McCarten says John Key is picking a fight with Maori if he thinks he can make their job security even more tenuous.

The Prime Minister is expected to announce a raft of industrial law changes to the National Party conference in Auckland on Sunday, including further restrictions on union access to workplaces and extending the 90-day probationary period for new workers to firms with over 20 staff.

Mr McCarten says that could create greater uncertainty for the many Maori who work in seasonal industries.

He says it's the biggest threat to workers' rights since National's Employment Contracts Act in 1991.

“Our lessons learnt. Whenever the Tories come after the workers, we’ve got to fight back. When unions have fought back, it’s been Maori who have led it. And this is the time for Maori now to step up and be there at 10.30 on Sunday outside Sky City, because we are gong to be there, and we will have it on,” Mr McCarten says.


A director of Maori investment company Fomana Capital says companies involved in the controversial Tekau Plus scheme are continuing to work on growing their export capacity, despite the scheme being suspended.

Until questions were raised about value for money and governance issues, Fomana was being paid by Te Puni Kokiri to help Maori businesses work out how they could boost their exports to more than $10 million each over the next decade.

Paul Morgan says that kaupapa is more important than short term politics.

“The business goes on. The business hasn’t stopped. They’re put there doing their events together, they’re negotiating sales and they’re investing in market promotions. Our next big one’s going to be Shanghai in September and we’ve got a whole host of preparatory work to do to put the programme together,” he says.

Mr Morgan and fellow director Wayne Mulligan have now bought the Federation of Maori Authority's shares in Fomana and severed its connection with the parent organisation.


Academic Rawiri Taonui is calling for a truth and reconciliation commission to turn the spotlight back on Maori historical grievances.

Mr Taonui, the head of Maori and ethnic studies at Canterbury University, will tell the Psychological Society's annual conference in Rotorua this weekend that New Zealand continues to suffer from historical amnesia.

He says similar commissions in Australia, Ireland, South Africa and some South American countries have allowed people to deal with their history and move on.

“The Waitangi Tribunal was in a sense akin to a forum like that, it airs Maori grievances, but it has no public profile. A lot of things that are said before the tribunal never really make their way out into the mainstream,” Mr Taonui says.

He says anyone who speaks the truth about genocide and historical trauma in New Zealand, like Maori Party MP Tariana Turia, can expect a backlash.


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