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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Asset sale plan setting agenda for election

Labour MP Shane Jones says selling state assets to foreigners will be a major issue in the Tamaki Makaurau electorate.

Mr Jones is seeking his party's nomination to challenge the incumbent MP, Maori party co-leader Pita Sharples.

He says the issue will raise further doubt among voters about the Maori Party's support for National, and they won't be fooled by suggestions Maori entities could buy in.

“The tribes by dint of their citizenship are already part owners of the state owned assets because the Crown holds them on behalf of all of us. I don’t see any upside whatsoever for the garden variety kiwi in hocking off these assets,” Mr Jones says.

He says it was Muriwhenua claimants and the Maori Council who prevented the sell off of state assets in the 1980s, and a generation later the same assets are on the block.


The chair of the Auckland's Maori statutory board says the super city will be a better place with greater Maori participation.

David Taipari met with mayor Len Brown yesterday to discuss the implications of putting two of the board's nine members on each of the council's 20 subcommittees.

He says while Prime Minister John Key says he wasn't aware the legislation gave those appointees full voting rights, the implications were clear at select committee stage ... and it's nothing to be afraid of.

“I'm sure the council wants to see genuine participation for Maori throughout the region and I’m sure Maori do. If this is the vehicle we’ve got to operate with, then it’s up to this board to be very responsible and to make sure that they comply with the legislation but also be very accountable to the Maori people they have been put in place to assist,” Mr Taipari says.

He says the Maori statutory board will be accountable to Maori throughout the region, even though the law doesn't compel it to be.


The convener of judges for the New Zealand Post Book Awards would like to see more support for publishing in Maori.

Books for adults in te reo are in short supply as the five judges get down to identifying finalists from the 150 nominated books published in New Zealand last year.

Paul Diamond from Ngati Haua, Te Rarawa and Ngapuhi, says funding from the Ministry of Education means there are Maori language books published for children, but there is no similar support for adult titles.

He says while the market may be small, it's vital such books exist.

“We produce wonderful poetry but the print run for poetry can be in the hundreds sometimes but often the poetry has support to help the publishers produce it because people have decided that this is an important thing for us to publish so perhaps with all of the resource we are putting into preserving, revitalising, using our reo, we could be thinking about publishing as well,” Mr Diamond says.

He is joined on the judging panel by educationalist Charmaine Pountney, former Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey, author Emily Perkins and poet and editor Michael Harlow.


As the Maori Party attempts to discipline Hone Harawira for attacking the party's closeness to National, the maverick MP is backing away from his earlier support for private prisons.

On his way to a meeting of his Tai Tokerau electorate committee about the complaint laid against him by the party whip, Mr Harawira said there was nothing in the Maori Party's support agreement with the Government that requires it to back state asset sales.

He says his earlier support for prison privatisation was based on false assurances from co-leader Pita Sharples.

“Even though I didn’t support privatisation I signaled my support for private prisons because I was assured by one of our co-leaders and by his officials that it would lead to kaupapa Maori prisons. Well in fact it’s not going to mean anything of the sort. So my reason for supporting the privatization of prisons is null and void in my view,” Mr Harawira says.

Even if the Maori Party leadership goes along with National's asset sales plan, he will oppose it because of the disastrous effect of past asset sales on Maori in his electorate.


Greens co-leader Metiria Turei says the race relations commissioner has abandoned any sort of critical assessment in his annual treaty review.

Joris de Bres reported progress in areas like the whanau ora model of service delivery, the proposed constitutional review, and settlements with iwi.

Ms Turei says Mr de Bres has been taken in by window dressing.

“We still have legislation to confiscation customary title from Maori. We’ve got issues around coastal mining and marine mining for example that are happening all around the coast where Maori are fighting large international companies. The big questions around poverty, aren’t being addressed, particularly for Maori communities, isn’t being addressed at al by this government and in fact is being made worse,” she says.

Ms Turei says treaty progress should mean questions about decision making and authority are addressed seriously.


The Council of Trade Unions' Maori vice president, Syd Kepa, says a 2 percent rise in the minimum wage is a slap in the face for low paid Maori.

He says disproportionate numbers of Maori are already getting the minimum wage of $12.50 an hour, so the rise to $12.75 won't go far.

“The 2 percent John Key is flagging is less than the 2.5 percent increase in the GST so a lot of our people on the minimum wage with be batting this year,” Mr Kepa says.

He says the unions will continue to push for a minimum wage of $15 a hour.


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