Calls for more than handouts for Māori

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Regional Development minister Shane Jones have preceded Waitangi Day celebrations with announcements of hundreds of millions of dollars in development grants, but this approach has been questioned and in some cases slammed – see National leader Simon Bridges urges RMA reform over $100m for Māori land ownership

NZ Herald editorial: Handouts are no substitute for a Ngapuhi Treaty settlement

The Prime Minister is doling out a great deal of money on her extended visit to Northland for Waitangi Day.

At a Kaipara marae on Sunday she announced $100 million of the Government’s $1 billion provincial growth fund will be set aside as capital for Māori developments.

Yesterday at Mangatoa Station near Kaikohe she announced $82m from the fund will be used to set up regional training and employment “hubs”, and a further $20m from the fund will go to establishing regional digital “hubs” to help small towns and marae get internet connections.

In two days, with Regional Development Minister Shane Jones at her elbow, they have committed about a fifth of the original fund which is already depleted by some grants of dubious value he made last year.

While the projects announced at the weekend will be spread around a number of regions Northland is one of the most needy, which is why successive governments have been working so hard to try to help Ngapuhi get organised for a Treaty settlement.

After a year of trying, Justice Minister Andrew Little seems to be no closer than previous ministers came to finding a bargaining partner all Ngapuhi hapu will accept.

Now the Government seems to be giving handouts instead.

The Government may be right that Māori land is the underdeveloped asset that can provide those parts with more wealth. But providing seed capital is the easy part. It has to do much more to ensure the seedlings are not mulched.

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom):  Ardern’s Waitangi sequel a test of relationship

Heading to what has traditionally been a tempestuous occasion for prime ministers, Jacinda Ardern’s Waitangi debut in 2018 went about as well as she could have hoped.

While Waitangi Day organising committee chairman Pita Paraone believes Ardern will receive a similar reception this year, he suggests there may be “a bit of murmuring” from Māori over some areas of discontent.

There has always been murmurings of discontent at Waitangi.

Matthew Tukaki, chairman of the National Māori Authority, agrees there will be plenty of expectation from Māori for the Government to deliver on its many promises.

“We’ve had a year of inquiries, we’ve had a year of investigations … 2019 for this Government must be the year of action.”

Many of the issues prioritised by Māori are the same as for the wider population: Paraone mentions mental health and housing, while Tukaki talks about high suicide and unemployment rates.

Tukaki says there is value in “universal principles that guide your waka”, but argues that is not enough: it must be supported by targeted reform and policies to succeed.

Solutions will not come in the form of short-term fixes, he says, but a longer-term vision that can be sustained over years or decades.

The handouts look to be more short term political fixes, or attempted fixes, but fundamental problems remain.

“For too long, government agencies and offices and ministries have been working on solutions and then saying to Māori, ‘Here’s a solution to whatever problem’,” (Labour MP and deputy Prime Minister) Kelvin Davis says.

Like “here’s some money”.

“Really what we need to say is, here’s a problem, how do we work on a solution together so it actually meets the needs of the people who we’re working for?”

There is a lot of work to do there, more than meeting a next year holding to account deadline that Ardern seems to be trying to address.

Māori will be looking to the future too, and whether Ardern’s government can deliver on its promises: perhaps with an added degree of wariness, but also hope.

They will be hoping for more from Ardern and her Government.


The bribe campaign continues

I don’t recall seeing as much blatant voter bribing as we are seeing this election. Party leaders seem to have a handout for every place they visit, trying hard to but votes locally and also to make the national news each day.

As the incumbent Government National have had an advantage. They used the budget in May to announce their big bribe, tax cuts for everyone plus a family package that boosted payments to beneficiaries and parents.

Labour followed with their own major bribe, free tertiary education (starting with one year but signalling more).

Both parties have also been drip feeding bribes as they campaign around the country. I have not keep up with the millions being offered on a daily basis.

It’s less than two weeks until the election and policies are still being dribbled out.

And yesterday Winston Peters announced his big bribe to his main constituency – some sort of new super gold card with lots of baubles and scant details. NZ First don’t seem to have done any homework, no costings, just a promise of something for nothing for pensioners.

The cost of NZ First election promises keeps climbing. Media don’t seem to pay much attention to this, but if NZ First gets to bargain for a coalition deal they could add substantially to National’s or Labour’s handout offers.

Labour also have the possibility of Greens adding a big hit to taxpayer expenses if they get into Government. This could be on top of NZ First requirements.

Parties have always been good at trying to bribe voters with the money taken off them by the state.

This election seems more of a bribe-fest than ever.

Perhaps MMP needs a new tool for voters – a vote of approval or disapproval of a coalition agreement.

But that would probably be pointless. All a party would need to do after that is come up with an ‘expert group’ that recommends things that weren’t detailed in the election campaign or coalition agreement.