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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Marae role seen for sober environment

A south Auckland Maori leader has challenged marae in Manukau to provide a safe and sober environment for rangatahi.

Dame June Jackson was part of a delegation of high-profile New Zealanders who lobbied parliament last month to toughen up the liquor laws.

She says many Maori families are affected by alcohol abuse, so it's important the Maori community as a whole takes responsibility for showing rangatahi some alternatives.

“We need to be utilising everyone that has a presence to make a difference and I think that all of use who have marae in south Auckland should be encouraging our young people to come there and to have hui, to sleep over, just so that we can perhaps present another image of what being Maori is all about and it’s not about being drunks,” Dame June says.

Organisations like the Maori Women's Welfare League and the Maori Wardens had a historical role in tackling the booze culture, and have a role to play today.

MAORI YOUTH COUNCIL CAN’T JUST BE A TALK SHOP

Maori party co-leader Tariana Turia says it's important a proposed Maori youth council doesn't just become a talk shop.

Te Puni Kokiri is seeking rangatahi with strong leadership skills and active engagement in Maori communities to serve on the 15-strong council, which will advise Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples.

Mrs Turia says it will be up to MPs to make the council feel it is contributing to policy formation.

“Rangatahi do get kind of hoha with those of us who are members of Parliament when we seek their advice and then we actually are not able to take it anyway,” Mrs Turia says.

GORSE REMOVAL TO FREE LAKE OF NITROGEN BUILD UP

Environment Bay of Plenty paying Maori landowners to convert gorse-covered hills around Lake Rotorua into pines.

John Paterson, the council's sustainable farming advisor, says the 860 hectares of mature gorse in the catchment pumps about 40 tonnes of nitrogen a year into the lake.

He says the $145,000 pilot project on an 18 hectare block behind the airport will include a study on the best ways of converting land which is polluting the lake.

“It would be great to eliminate it. We’ve started some initiatives with private landowners to come up with win-win solutions where they get rid of their unproductive land which is covered with gorse and causing issues for the lake and we convert it to something productive which is a low-leaching land use which pines trees is,” Mr Paterson says.

If the conversion is successful the council will approach other farmers with gorse-covered land.

MARAE PROJECTS BENEFIT FROM BANK’S PROFITS

Recreating a 17th century kainga and replacing wharenui and wharekai destroyed by fire are among the $1.3 million in marae improvement projects approved by the ASB Community Trust.

A trust at Te Hana got the largest grant, just over half a million dollars to complete a contemporary marae and traditional complex so visitors can see both the old and the new world of Maori.

Another $44,000 is going to Te Potiki National Trust to map all marae in Auckland and Te Tai Tokerau.

Grants advisor Cyril Howard from Ngapuhi says the ASB Trust recognises the special role of marae both as the heart of communities and for the social cohesion of the wider community.

STATE POLICY LEADS TO HISTORIC LACK OF EQUITY

The author of a report showing high levels of infectious diseases among Maori says historical factors are at play.

Phillipa Howden-Chapman, the deputy head of Otago University's department of public health, says the rate of respiratory diseases like rheumatic fever is growing among Maori and Islanders, while almost disappearing in European populations.

She says overcrowding is a major factor, and that is in part due to restrictions on Maori access to housing finance in the decades after World War 2.

“The grand-children of those people who didn’t own houses, who rented, never inherited any money from their grandparents. They inherited a lot of cultural richness but not a lump sum of money and because we don’t have a capital gains tax in new Zealand, we are getting a lot of convergence between those who have a lump sum to buy a house and those who that don't,” Professor Howden-Chapman says.

High rents are forcing Maori into over-crowded housing, and the reduction in state housing stock means the problem is likely to persist.

KAPA HAKA HELPING SOCIAL AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

A young tutor from West Auckland based Te Manuhuia says the whanau nature of the kapa haka roopu has helped members overcome difficulties in their lives.

Tuirina Wehi says the team has an open door policy, taking in anyone prepared to put in the work ... so members have included former street people or those in vulnerable situations at home.

It's a philosophy she inherited from grandparents Bub and Nan Wehi, the founders of Te Manuhuia's parent group Te Waka Huia.

“My koro would say that ‘he Maori ano’, inside of every Maori person is another Maori waiting to come out and so my job to help my koro and to give back to him and my nana is to feed this inside Maori person with the right kai, and that’s te reo, nga tikanga, te ihi, te wehi and all of that,” Ms Wehi says.

Te Manuhuia and Te Waka Huia are among the six groups chosen to represent Tamaki Makaurau at next year's Te Matatini festival in Gisborne.

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