Brownlee calls for new Maori policies

By Ruth Berry

National's Maori affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee has raised the prospect of changes to the party's existing Maori policy and called for the development of new policy initiatives, a leaked paper to caucus shows.

He has also reminded MPs that while the party has run the "need, not race" line, statistics show the need lies substantially with Maori.

Mr Brownlee presented the paper at National's caucus retreat last week.

It said the party needed to have a wide-ranging discussion on the relationship between Maori and National "with the intention of getting clear and agreed positions on a number of policy positions that have been electorally positive for National".

Post-election there had been a growing perception the party had "softened" its stance, despite "numerous" assertions to the contrary.

"This is in part a result of our discussions with the Maori Party immediately after the election and various views articulated by some of our new members in maiden speeches."

There had been no backing away from the sentiments expressed by leader Don Brash on the subject in either the cross-party discussions or the speeches, he said.

But suggesting there might in future be changes and that they would have to be carefully managed, the paper continued: "however we do need to consider our positions, reaffirm policy where appropriate and, if we are to have any changes, consider the process for how those changes are to be publicly articulated".

The party needed to develop new initiatives based around "Maori economic development, Maori land law, the role of the state in recognition and determination of who is Maori, what constitutes iwi and hapu. Whose decision should that be? And how will disputes, over tribal identity post settlement, involve Government?"

It also needed to decide how to deal with Maori over-representation in undesirable statistics.

"We have made it clear that we want to help New Zealanders on the basis of need not race, but any look at these [listed] statistics will show the need does substantially lie with Maori."

National remained committed to removing unnecessary reference to the Treaty of Waitangi from legislation, but "this is not as straight forward as it may appear".

He noted the the part of the economy under Maori control and ownership was doing "very well" but this had not translated into better incomes for Maori. The average weekly income for Maori was $115 lower than that for all New Zealanders.

Asked about the potential for policy changes yesterday, Mr Brownlee said: "It's an inhouse document to caucus members and some person has clearly leaked it into the media when that is quite inappropriate."

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