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Maori voters call for change to extinguish poverty

Nov 21st, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

TALKING ISSUES: Students, from left, Shannon Gray, Aus Paul, Rawinia Butler and Charlie Kahaki in Te Tai Hauauru electorate.


POVERTY is the biggest issue in New Zealand, and Maori voters in Porirua say it will only get worse if nothing is changed.

Porirua is in in the Te Tai Hauauru electorate and voters spoken to put much of their faith in the Labour, Mana and Maori party.

They want change through more educational and job opportunities along with an increase in the minimum wage.

“The population is poorer and younger these days and it’s not helping with National lowering the wages,” sickness beneficiary and Labour supporter William Kohe (left) says.

“Employment is the biggest issue, cutting wages is the wrong way to solve problems and all it is doing is inciting crime with our younger people.”

“We need more job opportunities; I have been on the benefit for four months because I can’t find any work,” Labour supporter Pat Rice (below) says.

She agrees with Labour increasing the minimum wage, because it would give her more motivation to work.

Her friend, Tauren Winter from New Plymouth, is moving to Queensland this weekend because she is also unable to find work.

“I have just had enough, it’s hard to stay here when I know there is so much more opportunity elsewhere.”

Matthew Rau (left) – who is undecided who he will vote for – says there needs to be a more motivation and emphasis on education within the Maori electorates.

“I don’t think the system caters for Maori and Pacific students, we need more of an emphasis on practical work rather than theory”.

Waitangirua resident, Elizabeth Tanirau, says if Maori children gain more qualifications at school, stronger job opportunities will prevail but says the system has to become more engaging.

“If school is implemented and taught in an interesting way kids will enrol and stay, they will have more opportunities then.”

Ms Tanirau (right) – who supports the Maori Party because their values match – says her candidate vote will go to Tariana Turia to help her retain her seat in the Te Tai Hauauru for the third term.

“Tariana Turia implemented Whanau Ora [a government run organisation which helps families as one, not individuals], which helped immensely with my family issues, even my kids at school”

Mana will be gaining Rawiri McLean’s vote because they are “motivated” to helping tamariki (children).

“Children’s needs are the foremost, their access to education, food and shelter is a huge issue, and they need to be under the umbrella of love.”

Although majority of voters in the Maori electorate expressed their enthusiasm in wage increases, some questioned how New Zealand would be able to afford it.

“Where are they going to get this money from to raise the minimum wage anyway,” student and part-time worker Aus Paul says.

“I don’t see the point in it, the government is only going to tax it more.”

In the 2008 election a mere 63 percent of voters in the Te Tai Hauauru electorate voted compared to an 80 percent voter turn-out on the general roll.

There are seven Maori electorates covering New Zealand – Te Tai Tokerau, Tāmaki Makaurau, Hauraki-Waikato, Te Tai Hauāuru, Waiariki, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti and Te Tai Tonga.

Maori poverty reality

Although the number of unemployed Maori decreased from 14 percent to 13.4 percent this year – according to the recent Statistics New Zealand’s Household Labour Force Survey – the figure is nearly double that of New Zealand’s total unemployment rate.

A report titled He Ara Hou, The Pathway Forward, – commissioned by Every Child Counts – reveals that 25 percent of working aged Maori are on some form of benefit.

The He Ara Hou report revealed that of the 200,000 New Zealand children living below the poverty line nearly 60,000 were Maori. Every Child Counts is a coalition of organisations which raises public awareness and promotes public policies about children.

More than a quarter of Maori children live in overcrowded homes, and they have two to three times poorer health than any other ethnic group.

A study conducted by Education Counts – a website run by the Ministry of Education – shows 54 percent of year 13 non-Māori students achieve University Entrance through NCEA compared to 29 percent of Māori students.

Te Tai Hauauru’s main candidates

Tairana Turia (left) – currently the co-leader of the Maori party – is said to be unlikely to lose her seat this year after being the local MP since 2002.

Willie Jackson said on TVNZ’s Te Karere that he thinks Turia “has it in the bag” and Maori Television’s political editor, Semiramis Holland, also predicts she will retain the seat.

Ms Turia met and debated the electorate’s issues with the candidates she is up against – Jack Tautokai McDonald for the Green Party, Soraya Peke-Mason of Labour, Mana’s Frederick Timutimu – earlier in the month at St Mary’s Church in Wanganui.

Turia opened by saying “we need to feed our children, as they are our potential for moving into the future”.

During the candidate meeting Ms Turia emphasised the role of acting as a representative in parliament for the Te Tai Hauauru electorate.

“In the end our job is to be the most powerful advocate in Parliament we can be.

“Everything we do should be driven by the iwi and the people in the electorate.”

One of the most concerning issues for Ms Turia is poverty within Maori in New Zealand.

“The reality is from the time Maori resources were taken from us our people have lived in poverty and watched others get wealthy on the back of these resources,” she said at the TVNZ multi party debate on Wednesday night.

She wants to raise the minimum wage to $15, have the pension moved to 60 years old for Maori, Pacific and poor because a lot do not reach 65.

At the candidate meeting she criticised National’s investment in New Zealand prisons, saying instead Maori need to “learn and earn” through developed job creation schemes.

Turia says New Zealand needs to be investing in people and the job market and she encourages introducing a transactional tax we could earn 22 billion on a 1% tax.

In 2008 Ms Turia captured 71 percent of the 18,995 electorate votes cast for candidates in the Te Tai Hauauru electorate. In 2005 she won by a margin of 5113 votes.

Jack McDonald (right)  – from the Greens Party – says this is his first time standing as an MP in the electorate and he is more interested in gaining the party vote.

The 18-year-old Victoria University student, says the biggest issue is “the alarming rates of child poverty we have in the country in general, but also specifically in Te Tai Hauauru”.

He says there are large numbers of beneficiaries in the electorate and the vast majority of children living under poverty are in those houses.

During the candidate debate he emphasised the problem that 10 percent of the population owns 50 percent of the wealth.

“Whereas the bottom half of our population only owns two percent.”

To change this Mr McDonald advocates an increase in the minimum wage, which would be “locked in to 66% of the average wage”, reinstating the training incentive allowance and making the working for families system fairer.

“We know education is one of the best ways to get out of poverty that’s why we want to enable parents on beneficiaries’ access to training.”

To make the Working For Families system fair there would be more tax credits available to beneficiary families.

Soyara Peke-Mason (left) – is a list Labour Party member – agrees with Turia and McDonald.

“New Zealand’s cost of living is too expensive and it is pushing those in the electorate into further poverty.”

Ms Peke-Mason – who has spent the last nine years involved in local government – says a fairer tax system will be able to take care of those people in the area of poverty.

“What underpins this is a lot of factors, the cost of living, wages and of course the economy and it doesn’t help of course by the fact that we have had recessions.”

She, along with Labour, is looking at raising the minimum wage, making the first $5000 tax free, and taking GST off fresh fruits of vegetables.

Ms Peke-Mason estimates the pockets of struggling and middle-class will have an extra $70-$80 in their pockets per week.

“So it’s a combination of those sorts of policies that are going to put money back into their pockets so they can do more with it and have a better lifestyle.”

Self-proclaimed “new koru on the block”, Mana Party candidate Frederick Timutimu (right), is an advocate for Treaty claims and community organisations.

He says his main focus is New Zealand’s children.

He supports abolishing GST – taken from similar models overseas – increasing the minimum wage to $15 by April 1, and he supports changes to employment relations which will entitle workers to stronger bargaining powers.

He also opposes deep sea drilling.

“Mana has zero tolerance to the idea, overseas countries are taking our resources and those resources could be for our people.”

Mr Timutimu is affiliated with Nga Tamariki o Te Kohu and Ngati Raukawa Iwi, and has recently been involved in Treaty Claims.

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