Saturday, 11 November 2017

Its Our Future Manawatu leads the way.

The PNCC voted to introduce Maori Wards in an enlightened and progressive move to introduce a fairer and more inclusive way of ensuring balanced and across the board representation to Palmerston North’s growing population. Ten Councillors' and the Mayor voted for the progressive change. Those shown with a cross voted against and the one Councillor with a question mark was not present. 

Voting against Front-row was Adrian Broad and Karen Naylor, 2nd row: Leonie Hapeta and 3rd row Bruno Petrenas.
The Councillors' voting for were: back-row [LtoR]: Susan Baty, Duncan McCann, Vaughan Dennison and Lew Findlay. Centre row [LtoR]: Rachel Bowen, Aleisha Rutherford, Lorna Johnson and Jim Jefferies. Gabrielle Bundy-Cooke [?] was not present. Front row: Grant Smith [Mayor] Tangi Utikere [Deputy Mayor] and Brent Barrett.

‘It’s our Future Manawatu joined with other submitter's supporting the progressive and intelligent behaviour of 80% of those who voted in favour. Here is a full report from IOFM representative: Dr. Fred Hirst; Medical Specialist - MidCentral DHB 1982 – 2016.
Dr. Fred Hirst.

“On 24 October 2017 the PNCC, after considering public submissions, voted 11-4 to establish 1 or 2 Māori wards for the 2019 and 2022 Council elections. Election details will be decided before September 2018 as part of the Council’s representation review following further community consultation. To countermand the resolution, a petition of >5% (>2,727) of eligible PNCC electors would be required prior to 21 Feb 2018. The Council would then be forced to conduct a poll of PNCC electors, at an estimated cost to ratepayers of $100,000, the outcome of which would be binding for two elections before being reviewed.

The Council agreed with those submissions which sought more effective representation and response to the needs of Māori  who form 17% of Palmerston North's electoral population.  There has been no Māori councillor, since Waana Davis from 1984 -'98, to provide equitable representation in local Government contrary to the spirit of partnership with Māori  as enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi.

Submissions to the Council, available on the PNCC web-site, included the following justifications for Māori representation: Although there have been some successes in reducing inequalities in health, employment, standards of living,  knowledge and skills indicators over the last 10-15 years, the gaps among the majority of the indicators show worsening outcomes for Māori and Pacific people when compared to the European population.

Māori are disproportionally represented within Palmerston North's 'most socio-economically deprived', ie the poorest 20%, who have worse health, mortality and increased environmental risk at home and at work.

Māori life expectancy at birth is 7 years less than non-Māori; local Māori die from accidents and injuries (including suicide) at twice the rate of the general population; NZ infant death rates for those living in the most deprived areas are 3 times as high as those in least deprived areas but for Māori   the comparative rate is six times as high. Children living in the most deprived areas are 3 times more likely to be hospitalised for potentially avoidable illness than those least deprived. Māori and Pacific peoples have much higher levels of unmet GP need compared to non-Māori due to lack of timely access to effective, affordable and accessible health care - with the most important barriers being cost and lack of transport.

The lack of equal access and opportunity from birth; for Māori and others living in socioeconomic deprivation which is associated with reduced access to health services, education and employment, is contributing, to poor mental health drug and alcohol abuse and incarceration.  NZ's prison population of more than 10,000 comprises 56% Māori although only 15% of the population. Māori are almost twice more likely to be imprisoned on conviction than pakeha.

Submissions against the Māori ward establishment were primarily from individuals who appeared to lack knowledge of colonial history including the Māori  wars, the unique partnership between Māori  and the Crown as enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi and subsequent illegal Crown confiscation of Māori  land. The Hobson's Pledge lobby group and supporters, led by Don Brash, wish to abolish Māori electorates; challenge establishment of Māori wards in District Councils; dissolve the Treaty Of Waitangi tribunal and all legal references to Treaty 'partnership' and 'principles'. They consider these are forms of 'race-based privilege' which 'positively discriminate' to the benefit of Māori. These views are clearly at odds with the historical facts and the reality of socioeconomic disadvantage of Māori people with many living and dying in poverty.

The consequences of ignoring the widening gap of inequality were well stated in one submission: Inequality limits people's life choices and opportunity to maximise their contribution to the economy and to society. It creates economic loss through being unemployed, under-employed, untrained, disenchanted, disconnected and disenfranchised.

Inequality generates inefficiency due to resources being diverted from wealth-enhancing activities and allocated to ‘picking up the pieces’. The impacts of this inefficiency are felt across the whole of society, including businesses who have a less skilled workforce; higher tax rates are required to fund the costs of inequality and loss of potential economic growth from under-utilisation of human resources.

We all lose when we don't do more to narrow the gap between the 'haves' and 'have-nots'.

The Cabinet Social Development Committee in 2004 noted 'most people want a society where everyone has the same opportunity to participate and succeed; where factors such as ethnicity and family background do not impact on one’s future opportunities'.

However well-meaning; Councillors are privileged people who can’t effectively fully represent Māori or other vulnerable people in our community, particularly those experiencing socioeconomic deprivation and poverty. Their actions and strategies to improve the status of those in most need is not working effectively - we must do something different.

I believe Māori representation and leadership, through the creation of Māori wards, will assist the Council to improve the living and working conditions of the most vulnerable and deprived in our community. We can all benefit by Māori contribution of stewardship and governance – kaitiakitanga. Their resilience, based on strong, supportive whānau and community networks will also aid in the protection and preservation of our shared environment as we meet the challenge of climate change.

To learn more about Its Our Future Manawatu go to:

No comments: