“Reached the limits of what Government can do”

Comments made by Bill English in his speech at Ratana suggesting that Government had “reached the limits of what Government can do” have been criticised, but I think he makes a valid point.

ODT reported:

In a 10-minute speech which included a brief Te Reo introduction, Mr Little also criticised Prime Minister Bill English’s comments at Ratana yesterday. Mr English told Ratana members to “reawaken the spirit of enterprise” among Maori because Government had “reached the limits of what government can do – government grants, programmes, more public servants.”

Mr Little responded: “I come here to say that’s an abdication of leadership and an abdication of the responsibility of Government.”

But Andrea Vance at 1 News reported more detail: PM Bill English tells elders at Ratana the Government isn’t abandoning Maori

Andrea Vance: Both Mr English and the church seem to be in tune over pulling Maori out of poverty.

Bill English: Somehow along the way we have reached the limits of what Government can do, the limits of Government grants, programmes, more public servants.


And what I see around the country, and I think it’s obvious now to every New Zealander, is this burgeoning spirit of enterprise.

Piri Rurawhe (Ratana Church Secretary): That’s always been a whakauru (?) of Ratana. We need to help ourselves before we can help anyone else, and we like that whakauru.

Andrea Vance: Mr English says the Government isn’t abandoning Maori.

Bill English: Government is learning much better how to work with the people who know the people.

Apart from the overdone platitude ‘every New Zealander’ I think English makes a lot of sense here.

We can’t sit back and expect the Government to fix everything. It is often far more effective if the Government helps and encourages communities and families to help themselves as much as possible.

Obviously some Government assistance, funding and interventions are necessary, but people – individuals, families and communities – need to take responsibility for their own problems.

Solutions cannot easily or effectively be imposed, they have to be wanted, and those with problems (with some exceptions) ultimately need to address and resolve them themselves as much as possible.

There is only so much Government can do. Recognising this is important. I think English is on the right track here.

English at Ratana

Bill English has attended the annual gathering at Ratana, speaking in Maori “extensively”. He said he had “picked up bits and pieces” and thought it was important to show respect for the language in a formal Maori situation.

Stuff: Bill English attends Ratana for first time as Prime Minister – and a day earlier than expected

The Prime Minister was welcomed to Ratana Pa on Monday for the first time since being appointed as leader and described the reception as the “best of tikanga” in terms of the “hospitality, respectfulness and warmth” he received.

Ratana Church secretary Piri Rurawhe was first to speak and stressed it was their choice to extend an invite to English to attend a day earlier than other political leaders because all are welcome at Ratana Pa, “irrespective of the colour of their skin”.

Rurawhe said having the new Prime Minister attend was about giving the people an opportunity to hear the Government’s plans for the year ahead.

English began his reply to Rurawhe and the Ratana people speaking extensively in Maori without any notes – demonstrating his good grasp of the language.

Speaking to media after, he said he wouldn’t say he was “proficient” but has instead “picked up bits and pieces” in his years in Parliament.

“I just think it’s important when you’re going into a formal Maori situation to show some respect for the language. I don’t know a whole lot, I can understand roughly half of what’s said and I can use some of it,” he said.

English was warmly greeted by Ratana elders when he arrived shortly before midday on Monday and was taken onto the Pa by the local band.

“I just think, as you’ve seen here today, it’s the best of tikanga. It’s good for New Zealand and good for New Zealanders to see it.

“It’s such a positive, warm and hospitable way of doing business.”

English said the decision not to go to Waitangi has been made but that it wasn’t the “only place” that conversations about Maori issues took place.

Te Tii should take note.

RNZ: Prime Minister schools Ngāpuhi on ‘tikanga’

Ngāpuhi kaumātua Kingi Taurua has responded to the Prime Minister’s comments saying if he prefers a tikanga of peace and quiet, Ratana is the place for him.

Mr Taurua is a kaumātua of Te Tii Marae which has hosted the political pōwhiri for decades.

“Each tribe, each marae, has their own method of tikanga. If Ratana has a tikanga that is suitable for the government then well and good but at Waitangi we have a tikanga of challenging government policies in regards to the Treaty of Waitangi,” said Mr Taurua.

English said that the Government had reached it’s limit on dealing with social problems, and he didn’t think that more money and more public servants was going to achieve any more. He indicated more partnerships with ‘the people who know the people’.

(That’s from memory from seeing coverage on 1 News, I’ll update when they put the item up online.)