Lift­ing peo­ple from poverty trap cru­cial

South Waikato News - - OPINION -

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 tar­i­ana.turia@par­lia­ment.govt.nz; or call my of­fice on 0800 488 742.

TAR­I­ANA TURIA

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