Labour’s changing approach to Maori inequality

POLITICAL ROUNDUP

Dr Bryce Edwards

John Tamihere says there is a need to “actually target Māori problems, with Māori solutions.”

That Maori face severe disadvantage in New Zealand is a given. The debate really lies in how to deal with this inequality and deprivation. Right now, a significant political shift seems to be occurring in which the once-dominant ideas of targeted programmes and separate Maori political vehicles are being replaced by a more universal approach.

The latest sign came in last week’s government budget, which was conspicuously lacking in funding for “Maori development.” According to John Tamihere, writing in the New Zealand Herald yesterday, the Whanau Ora programme “received zero funding in Budget 2018” and “for the first time in decades, Budget 2018 actually took money away from Māori. Te Puni Kokiri loses $3 million of baseline funding over the next four years” – see: Where's the money for Māori, Jacinda?

Mr Tamihere looks at targeted vs universal funding and concludes that, while both approaches “have merit,” there is a need to “actually target Māori problems, with Māori solutions.” In fact, he makes the case that mainstream funding ends up being race-based: “This targeted racist-style of funding has to stop. It's called mainstream or white stream funding because more funding is thrown at the Māori problem by non-Māori to fix Māori.”

Tamihere highlights two quite different models for dealing with Maori deprivation and disadvantage. These are important public policy concepts which have informed how New Zealand government and politics have operated in recent decades.

The universal approach is based on political strategies in which Maori are largely treated the same as other ethnicities, and problems are dealt with on the basis of need, in the first instance, rather than culture, race, etc. In this broad strategy, social services and targeted programmes are directed to those in poverty or with particular illnesses, housing needs, or whatever.

The theory is that, by virtue of addressing those most in need, this will also benefit Maori because Maori are disproportionately represented amongst New Zealand’s most disadvantaged populations. In an electoral sense, under this more “mainstream” approach, Maori vote for or join political parties on the basis of policy, rather than on the basis of ethnicity, and perhaps even go on the general roll.

The Maori-specific approach is based on political strategies that accept Maori issues require a unique answer due to the complex and distinct situation of Maori. This approach also places a greater emphasis on cultural practices and sovereignty issues. This means the provision of public services should be tailored for Maori, and ideally designed and delivered by Maori. A major driver of this approach lies in the failure of mainstream solutions to alleviate Maori inequality. Under this Maori-specific approach, Maori vote for and join parties that are explicitly set up for Maori interests and aspirations.

Of course, the reality is much more complex than this simple dichotomy, and combinations of both approaches are used by governments. Nonetheless, the “universal vs Maori-specific” dualism does give a sense of some of the complexities of Maori and ethnic politics in New Zealand over recent decades.

Very broadly, New Zealand government and politics have traditionally employed a more universal approach. But this began to change quite significantly in the 1980s when frustration grew with the plight of Maori and demands for new strategies grew. Universalism became discredited for some, and governments and others moved more toward Maori-specific public policy. I examine this shift in a column this week on the Newsroom website – see: Labour's move away from Maori-specific policies.

Labour’s shift away from “race-based” politics
In an earlier Political Roundup in February, I covered the Labour Party’s signalled shift away from “culturalist” or “race-based” politics in dealing with Maori inequality – see: The real political controversy of Waitangi 2018. This looked at Jacinda Ardern’s declaration at Waitangi that the new government would take a universalistic approach: “We are specifically targeting things like poverty. An actual by-product of that is it will positively impact Maori.”

At the centre of much of the change in Maori politics is new Labour MP and minister, Willie Jackson, who is playing a key role in changing Labour’s approach. He’s written a very informative post at the Daily Blog, in which he defends the budget, and explains the changes going on – see: The Budget and Māori.

Mr Jackson starts off explaining that Labour believes in both universalism and a Maori-specific approach: “People must be clear that governments run dual strategies for Māori. The first one is a universal strategy and the second one is a targeted strategy. Anybody who thinks that a government should just have a targeted strategy funding Māori programmes and kaupapa only is deluded and more than likely a member of the Māori Party!”

He then explains that Maori-specific public policy approaches tend to be based around a traditional and cultural world in which most Maori don’t actually live: “Although some of us practise things Māori every day and our whole world is about te ao Māori, we are sadly in the minority. Most Māori kids don’t speak Māori, don’t go to Māori schools, most Māori families don’t engage with the marae and most of our people are not on the Māori roll. That’s the reality, and that’s what we have to deal with in politics. So, with that being the case, we have to have policies that deal with that reality.”

Mr Jackson also argues Labour won all seven Maori seats on the basis of appeals to universalism and traditional economic or class-based politics, and saw it as a priority to deal with ameliorating material poverty and deprivation before focusing on cultural or sovereignty issues. This is in line with comments Jackson made following last year’s election: “This waffle about foreshore and seabed is exactly that. I think most of our people don't care – that's why they voted against the Maori Party. They care about housing, health and education” – see John-Michael Swannix’s Most Māori don't care about foreshore and seabed – Jackson.

For an in-depth examination of how Willie Jackson, along with Shane Jones and Nanaia Mahuta, are changing iwi-government relations, see Graham Cameron’s excellent article from March, Labour to Iwi Chairs Forum: ‘Iwi leaders need to catch up with the new world’. He argues that the traditional iwi leaders are out of favour in the new Maori political landscape, and future influential Maori leaders will be those who can show that they can help transform the lives of the poor.

Not everyone agrees with this new approach, of course. The Maori Party has provided the best challenges to it. Marama Fox questions whether the new approach is appropriate, saying “Universality does not work, has not worked. It will have some benefits but it would be greatly increased if it was targeted in the right direction” – see Jenna Lynch’s Labour could face backlash from Māori voters.

Likewise, Maori Party president Che Wilson says “Mainstreaming Maori issues has shown over the decades it doesn’t work” – see 1News’ 'It's extremely disappointing, you know?' – Labour MPs under fire over lack of targeted spending for Maori.

This news report suggests other Maori-specific funding is also vulnerable: “Targeted Maori spending for things like broadcasting, community and economic development is also under scrutiny”.

Finally, for another account that is challenging for the new government and its more universal approach, see Joshua Hitchcock’s Why Māori need an apology from the new Labour government.

This is supplied content and not commissioned or paid for by NBR.


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23 Comments & Questions

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There has always been Free Education in New Zealand for all People and Cultures (rich or Poor) up to High school, which has given every one the same opportunities in life !

Some people choose to have Kids or smoke and drink and are too lazy to go to work and expect the Tax payer to pay their way in life.

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The idea that Maori somehow are somehow hugely more disadvantaged than anyone else is a crock! The fostering an entitlement mentality by the likes of Bryce Edwards just hinders Maori further as it discourages them from taking responsibility for their own situation. Sure, some guidance and tailored programs could help but don't keep treating Maori as victims of the evil Pakeha!

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For Maori to progress: A little less indolence and a lot more sense of self-reliance.

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Actually, I like what Willie and co are suggesting. They are human beings just like the rest of us. Treat them as such.

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One has to wonder, if a political party were to pop up next election, with the key electioneering platforms of abolishing all ties to the UK Crown and "grandfathering" the Treaty of Waitangi as obsolete and no longer fit for service in order to negotiate a Republic or other suitable form of modern government, how many votes would they receive?

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Great future in exporting gorse & visiting Paris

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I for one don't agree with discarding the ideas discussed in this article. Maori under performance is a fact. Simply telling them to get their act together hasn't worked and won't achieve a thing. In terms of universalism versus targeted policies for any sub group (or majority group in the case of the Ministry for Women) I don't see how it can be an either or approach. Surely targeted must be a sub set of universalism? There is no doubt that there are many Maori who don't need any help, and even more the case for women. On the other hand excluded groups like white males definitely have members who are disadvantaged. So you start by identifying those who are disadvantaged (by applying indicators - apparently big data should make all this possible down to an individual level) and once identified drill down and examine why they are disadvantaged and what, if anything, can be done. This will mean tailor made policies for those having similar disadvantage characteristics within this group. However the idea that you can "fix" everyone is a pipe dream. All you can do is offer something that works to those who wish to help themselves and try and mitigate the damage caused by the rest.

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Historic PC blanket policies based on academic rhetoric have done more damage than good
Love the phrase "hand up, not hand out" or give - no, show - no, teach YES

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"That Maori face severe disadvantage in New Zealand is a given. The debate really lies in how to deal with this inequality and deprivation."

Totally an untruth. If you replace "Maori "with "university lecturers" this loaded assertion would be just as false. Race does not make you deprived etc. Target only people of any race only if they need it, not just one race across the board. Taken to its logical conclusion, Edwards' preference would end up with a separate ambulance service etc, for each race in NZ.

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We have seperate govt depts for gender + race already - but only the popular ones

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What Tamihere is proposing won't happen as Maori love the hand-outs too much.

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Referring to Tamahere's comments re Maori funding.
His comments are a prime reason why all Maori funding should be on the main stream basis and no other.
He is clearly of the view that Maori should be treated on a stand alone basis as indeed administer their own funding handed out by Government.
That clearly is a nonsense.
Maori must learn to live within the same confines as all other races and groups that now make up NZ.
Yes they are over represented in all facets fro hospital attendances to jail.
But that is their fault simply because they will not mainstream how they bring up there large families.
They will not go to the Doctor or take the kids to the doctor and the progression is hat they will end in hospital.
Likewise the minor crimes are got away with and eventually Prison is the outcome.
Tamihere offers no logical reason why Maori should be a stand alone race treated with special accords and in the end his comments confirm to me that Maori must be mainstreamed and the sooner the better for them as a race and the sooner the better for the tax payer funding.
The education system offered is the same for all but do the Maori take advantage of that.
No ....they won't even see to it that the kids go to school and certainly don't do the home work all other kids do and are measured by.
The Maori would sooner spend time with a hucker or a dance and song.
That is their nature and their culture but it is not helping them to learn and take advantage of the education system that is in place.
In the end that simply means they cannot function within a society and find themselves outside of the norm and needing special attention.
That is wrong in every respect and those that allow it to continue are creating an unacceptable future for the Maori and a drag on the rest of society who will in the end object in a very serious way.
So to Tamihere I say wake up you ae coming at the problem from the wrong end.

.

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Civil decency just hit rock bottom listening to Minister Jackson take a human fact and turns it into a question by being unwilling to hear different points of view, is not reassuring at all.

Most people would ask this question, are Tangata Whenua better off today than they were: 20/30/ 100 years ago?

Emotions aside, the Māori caucus should be delighted with John Tamihere’s 2018 budget review. Feedback from voters doing it hard in local communities is clear the rich need more to do more, and that the poor can do more with less. Sometimes straight up delivery is what’s needed to prevent comatose thinking. We didn’t choose our given situation political decisions double figures and their many reasons are fully documented.

But; the fact that “we Are the people” who can do a lot more with targeted funding compared to what we can’t do with universal funding will require a mixture of local common ground solutions. The Prime Minister asked for feedback. One way to show grace and respect is by accountability. Didn’t your parents ever correct you when you overstepped the mark, mine did.

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There is no such group as Maori. Using the term implies there is one, homogenous group. As with any other ethnicity, there is a range of of rich to poor; successful people v less successful people; some well educated and some less so. For political parties to refer to “Maori” does a disservice to many people Enshrining a range of people as Maori, when the affiliation is suspect. It is decades past time when ethnicity determined social and economic support. We are all New Zealanders!

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A lose and lazy potshot message that doesn’t grasp the gist of the debate. Ignoring centuries old institutional evidence so you can justify your stand so as to turn it on its head, isn't problem solving its problematic.

Nothing in this world is ever unchangeable, nothing except death. The just exercise of power can never be based on racist assumptions that is not right, that’s unjust, that's unfair when all people require right now is a helping hand up, a helping hand to get our citizens back on their feet again. Isn't that what all New Zealanders do?

The challenge facing today’s politicians of all stripes is to try something new by breaking up with the past, with the kind of institutional thinking that got our country in trouble in the first place.

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That's all very well and nice, but when does the helping hand of never-ending cash payouts come to an end, never?

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Scary, the level of assumption here that everyone in NZ is born into and receives the same level of opportunity. Take a look at any colonised people around the world and their outcomes down the track vs. the colonising peoples.

And then still declare there's nothing there, no difference, no long-term and cyclical effects?

Where can I buy some of these pale-coloured tines?

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As long as successive governments pander privilege to those that have even the slightest tint of brown skin pigmentation we will create a sense of false entitlement to those that choose to feel disadvantaged. The solution is simple. Treat those in need all the same way, regardless of which culture they claim to be descendants of.

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You know Lindsay Coulter, obviously we can all see things through different lenses for example ignoring years of political policies deliberately designed to remove our ability to live with dignity since no one I know chooses to feel disadvantaged in any way shape or form. Even basic health care by turning it into a privilege to be earned, rather than a right of citizenship is simply means you're wrong.

Maybe past policies don’t affect you in anyway so there’s no personal empathy or understanding involved here? Maybe you like to believe that poor brown people are our most privileged citizens, yeah wrong again?

But, whatever you feel about other people or misapplying privilege don’t make this about equivalency when it’s not. The teaching message is all about the power who holds it reels it in and who is negatively harmed as a result.

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My point is equality based on need. Let’s keep it all colour free. The other thing is one can NEVER address any perceived wrongdoing or inequality of the past with greedy distant relatives, albeit all of mixed ancestry or heritage.

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The reason I’ve chosen to respond Lindsay, is based on the assumption that you can call a spade a spade with impunity. My take away message on the universal system on offer today Lindsay: assumes that everyone will have equal social power and they don’t. People don’t start out equally we’re NOT given the same chances in life as some would believe. You see how the power dynamic has already changed through an individualistic assumption I think you're getting at?

Wear the same kind of spectacles as our marginalized folk. Take another look Lindsay, determine how universal policies will benefit our poorest members of society, then respond back.

The universal system as I understand it works like this, culturally we want everybody to become white, to act white, to think white, to make decisions the way white people do without knowing why different folk protest the status quo of this kind of dominant thinking.

Tino rangatiratanga in case you haven't lived till now is protest against unjust social, educational and legal realities, to name a few examples.

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The universal system as I understand it wants everyone to be treated based on need. Not treated as white, the colour of ones skin pigmentation should be entirely disregarded, so to should any reference to what culture one claims to be a part of. After all we all have similar multicultural heritage. By providing special consideration to ones claimed culture has done nothing other that to create a false sense of decency and entitlement.

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Well this was a waste of time and energy that I’ll never get back. Opinion is just that opinion Lindsay. What training will remediate a deficit in common sense? Let me see.

1 Address the systemic models of government that was built to accommodate validate and normalize Pākehā society, ignore the strategy now and it’ll come back to bite in 2020 Why?

2. Because the CEOs and senior managers at the desks of public organisations drive through strategies to meet their (KPIs). Employment contracts across the board need to be rewritten to address/aid or create transformational change today.

3. What’s on offer is not universal fairness or colorblind coverage if none of the above issues are not recognised and dealt with. I’ll see myself out goodbye Lindsay.

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