Waatea News Update

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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shift to social insurance threatened

A member of the Alternative Welfare Working Group says the first report of the government's official group shows a major shift in welfare policy is on the cards.

Mamari Philips, who teachers welfare law at Victoria University, says the committee headed by former Commerce Commission chair Paula Rebstock is signaling a shift from the current social assistance model, which is based on the notion that people should have a guaranteed minimum income, to a social insurance model where assistance is based on the contributions people pay over time.

She says that deserves of a much higher level of public debate than the government is making room for.

“This is an enormously important potential reform. We need to make sure that Maori in particular have a strong voice in representations made to the government so no we don’t think there has been adequate seeking of Maori viewpoint. There’s been some but we think there is room for more,” Ms Philips says.

She says Maori should make submissions to the Rebstock committee and to the Alternative Working Group, which intends to present its own report to government in December.


Labour leader Phil Goff says the party will make Maori and Pacific unemployment an issue in the Mana by-election.

The seat will become vacant later this year when Winnie Laban, who held it for Labour last election by more than 6000 votes over National's Hekia Parata, takes up a role as Victoria University's pro-vice chancellor Pasifika.

Mr Goff says with Maori unemployment running at over 16 percent and the Pasifika rate over 14 percent, that means a lot of people in the electorate are out of work.

“And where's the plan to deal with that? There is no plan. The Job Summit failed. The mining in national parks was a farce. People are concerned the economy isn’t recovering when it should be and the people are worse off, not better off,” he says.

Mr Goff says Labour is not taking the Mana electorate for granted.


Last year's national light heavyweight boxing champion hopes his making it on to the Commonwealth Games team will inspire more young Maori to take up the sport.

23-year-old Reece Papuni from Ngati Porou and Nga Rauru travels to New Delhi in October, along with Joseph Parker, Nathan McEwen, Angus Donaldson and David Aloua.

The Christchurch-based storeman says he's been boxing since he was 12, and it's a sport he recommends to others.

Once the games are over he will set himself to winning a spot at the Olympics.


Waikato Hauraki MP Nanaia Mahuta says the Government needs to consider the needs of families if it overhauls the benefit system.

The government's Welfare Working Group has sounded dire warnings about the number of people relying on benefits, and highlighted the fact that at the last census more than 40 percent of Maori women in their 20s were beneficiaries.

Ms Mahuta says the answer is education and training to keep young women on the pathway to jobs and careers, rather than onto the Domestic Purposes Benefit.

She says if benefit levels aren't sufficient, people can take extreme measures.

“It is a concern that some families are playing the system by separating their kids between the mum and the dad so that both can get the DPB. That cannot continue. It’s not for the kids. It’s something we do have to look at and it’s a challenge we can’t turn away from,” Ms Mahuta says.


The instigator of a campaign to clean up one of the country's most polluted rivers says this week's signing of the Manawatu River accord is testament to what iwi pressure can achieve.

The accord was signed by 27 bodies including iwi, regional and district councils and businesses ... although Federated Farmers backed out at the last minute.

Malcolm Mulholland from Ngati Kahungunu says it all stemmed from a protest hikoi through Palmerston North four years ago organised by the ginger group Te Huirapa.

“Rangitane, this is where they are from, got in behind the cause. It snowballed from there, there were 500 on the day, and from then there was a lot of pressure on Horizons regional council to do a better job of managing the river,” Mr Mulholland says.


Meanwhile, the environment manager for Ngati Whatua o Orakei says unless iwi are involved day to day, councils will shirk their responsibilities to look after natural resources.

Ngarimu Blair says he's frustrated that bureaucratic game playing within Auckland City Council over resource consents means nothing has been done to repair damage done by contractors to some of the city's volcanic cones five weeks ago.

He says the system should improve next year when a coalition of Tamaki iwi will be represented on a joint management committee for the maunga, but having boots on the ground is vital.

“We have to get kaitiakitanga at all levels, not just at the board table but down to kaitiakitanga at management on the ground so it’s our people who are working on these sites every day or people who are aligned with our values sand knowledge,” Mr Blair says.

He cites Ngati Whatua's co management of Bastion Point for 17 years as an example of a successful governance model.


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