Lifting people from poverty trap crucial
Three months ago a report, He Ara Hou: The Pathway Forward, stated that just over half of the 200,000 children living below the poverty line were Maori or Pasifika. As a result Maori and Pasifika children experience significantly poorer health, educational and social outcomes than other groups.
It was a reality that the Maori Party has spoken out, written about and advocated about ever since our founding hui in 2004.
Over the seven years since, we have asked questions in the House of both Labour and National ministers. Rahui Katene wrote to every party inviting them to be involved in a cross-party approach and one of her last initiatives as an MP was to establish a parliamentary inquiry into the wellbeing of Maori children, with a particular focus on addressing inequalities.
On Sunday, we finally achieved an opportunity to make poverty history – to bring together minister and associated ministries, and share best thinking about how to lift the quality of life for all our families.
I was really interested in a recent report from the United Nations which revealed that poverty rates in Latin America had dropped to their lowest rates in 20 years; extreme poverty rates dropping from 22.6 per cent to 12.3 per cent. Substantial declines were measured in Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay – countries which had bucked the trend and boosted significant public spending and social expenditure over the last two decades. It certainly gives us food for thought.
Here at home, I believe we need to urgently shift resources to alleviate the hardship Maori, Pasifika and low income families are suffering from. As part of the relationship accord the Maori Party has signed with Government, a ministerial committee on poverty has been established. I am deputy chair (Bill English is chair) and I can’t wait to get going; to make a real difference in the everyday situation of our families. Education, employment and training and housing are important for these whanau to lift them out of the poverty trap and will influence the type of interventions we hope to get movement on as soon as possible.
The other key achievement of our relationship accord is to expand and enhance what I believe to be our most important legacy – Whanau Ora. The terms of the accord include that we will expand the reach, capability and effectiveness of Whanau Ora. As part of this, we have secured a commitment to an annual appropriation – that means there will be continued resourcing across Government.
Finally, we argued passionately that asset sales had to be kept out of our agreement. Signing the deal is one thing. Now let’s make sure it has meaning for us all. I look forward to hearing all your feedback, on firstname.lastname@example.org; or call my office on 0800 488 742.