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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Country needs Maori back from Australia

The head of a new demographic research unit wants the government to encourage young Maori families to move back from Australia.

At yesterday's launch of the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis at Waikato University, Professor Natalie Jackson said for the first time in New Zealand's history, fewer people are entering the labour market than are retiring.

She says the situation will get worse from next year as post-war baby boomers reach retirement age.

“It's not a case of trying to bluff people. It’s about government getting serious and saying, ‘we have got this gaping hole in our age structure where we are missing an enormous number of say 18 to 35-year-olds.’ That’s the key age of young Maori in Australia and if we want them back we have to do something seious which says ‘if you come back we will really try to help you,’” Professor Jackson says.

She says the government and employers don't seem to realise that there will no longer be an ever-increasing pool of young people who they can pick and choose from and not treat particularly well.


National list MP Hekia Parata's stocks have risen after her success at pegging back Labour's majority in Mana.

The prime minister, John Key, says Labour has reason to be worried about Saturday's result.

He says he has always thought the Ngati Porou former bureaucrat was cabinet material.

“She's articulate. She’s intelligent. She’s thoughtful. She knows the electorate well. She’s got a great pedigree. I mean she’s worked in all sorts of government departments so she’s very knowledgeable and she truly cares about the people of Mana. And it’s hopefully I think the face of the modern National Party, multicultural, ambitious,” Mr Key says.

People will have to wait and see whether Ms Parata is his next appointment as a minister.


Auckland's AUT University is trying to encourage more Maori to take up nursing.

Anita Bamford-Wade, the joint head of the nursing faculty, says Maori have disproportionate health needs, and Maori healthcare across the board would improve if there were more Maori health professionals.

She says AUT is concerned not only to boost the number of Maori who enter training but the number who graduate.

“We have put in quite a bit of support around encouraging Maori nursing students in particular and we’ve just employed someone whose sole role is to take care of Maori nursing students within our school and to follow them and to facilitate support for them in any way they might need it to keep them in the programme,” Dr Bamford - Wade says.

Many Maori women are discouraged from training as nurses because they start their families younger.


Greens co-leader Metiria Turei says members of the Maori affairs select committee have to put up with racist submissions, but they shouldn't have to put up with racist colleagues.

ACT MP John Boscowan upset other members this week when he asked a Wellington businessman making a submission on the Marine and Coastal Area Bill whether he had confidence in the committee.

Ms Turei, who also sits on the committee but wasn't present at the time, says Maori members took that as a slur on their integrity.

“John has to be very careful that he doesn’t engage in the kind of anti-Maori debate that the Maori members of the select committee have already had to hear and no doubt will hear a lot more of from submitters. It gets very difficult to be there when you’re told that you’re just not the same as everybody else, you’re not as good or not as entitled, it gets very very tricky,” Ms Turei says.


Meanwhile, Maori academic Rawiri Taonui says the Maori Party could yet regret its support for the replacement to the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

The Maori Affairs select committee has received more than 4000 submissions on the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, with more than 500 people wanting to be heard.

Mr Taonui says that's likely to highlight the depth of Maori opposition to aspects of the bill, such as the stringent standard of the tests needed to prove customary ownership.

“There is a question mark over how the Maori Party is going to handle that. They’re probably not going to be able to support it through Parliament. Unwittingly they’ve placed themselves in the same position as Nanaia Mahuta, John Tamihere, Parekura Horomia, and the other (Maori) Labour MPs were in 2003, 2004 where they were trying to cut a good deal for Maori but they crossed a bridge over a river of compromise that was a beachhead too far,” Mr Taonui says.

He expects the Maori Party to go quiet on foreshore and seabed reform and instead highlight other policy wins like whanau ora and the Maori flag.


The director of the new National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis says it was formed because the government is ignoring important trends, such as the age gap between Maori and Pakeha populations.

The institute brings together demographers and economists from Waikato University with public policy experts from the Wellington-based Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust.

Natalie Jackson says the fact half the Maori population is under 23, while the Pakeha median age is 38, is creating a misallocation of resources in areas such as education and housing.

“The Pakeha population was youthful like this as recently as the 1970s and at that time policies were directed at a young population. Increasingly they’re directed at an older population and its needs with the health system and the welfare state and so on but we absolutely must not overlook this enormously youthful Maori population within our midst,” she says.

Professor Jackson says the Government is not funding the social research that is needed to keep Maori issues to the fore.


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