Damien Grant: Maori not only victims of state

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Tariana Turia. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Tariana Turia. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Dear Tariana Turia,

I appreciate your concern over water rights. You are right to protest that the Crown is threatening to infringe your property rights and take something that is rightfully yours.

I believe in the sanctity of property rights, including property wrongly confiscated from Maori. But, Minister, I have property rights too.

I run a small business and almost all of my costs are labour. Every time I earn a dollar, the Government takes 15c. I use what is left to pay staff and the Government takes a third. More than 45c of every dollar that my business earns goes in tax - GST, PAYE, provisional tax, FBT, rates, petrol surcharges, liquor taxes, road-user charges, ACC and even a surcharge on my rates to pay for the museum.

My small business of just 12 people pays nearly $1 million a year in taxes. None of us are wealthy. None of us earn what a Minister of the Crown does. Not one of us owns a house outright. If we could keep even half of that money, our lives would be enhanced greatly.

New Zealand's gross domestic product is about $200 billion, $73 billion of this is spent by the Government. This money is taken from people like me. My property, Turia, mine - taken from me, by force. Worse, when you reduce someone's income by taxing it they will work less, invest less in their education and are less likely to employ others because they will lose a third of any future income. This results in less economic activity. Economists have a term for this: deadweight loss. Treasury recommends using 20 per cent of all taxes collected to estimate this deadweight loss, which would be more than $13 billion annually. This is a huge burden on taxpayers and more than two-thirds of this money disappears into the welfare state.

Maori, let's be honest, are disproportionately heavy users of the welfare system. The most extreme example is that Housing New Zealand reports 75,000 Maori living in state houses, many paying little or no rent, compared with just 54,000 Pakeha. As tax is based on income, Maori contribute less per head than Pakeha towards its funding.

Of course, this system penalises productive Maori as well as productive non-Maori. The tax system has become an institutional redistribution from the productive to the unproductive; it rewards failure and penalises success.

The Treaty is a binding legal document. Wrongs have been committed, Maori property has been taken illegally and these issues should be addressed.

But the same rights you claim to your people, rights I support, should also apply to me. It is wrong to take other people's property by force, no matter who they are.


Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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