Islanders try to stop report on 'underclass'

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Members of the Pacific Island community want to stop an academic paper which labelled Polynesian migrants an "emerging underclass" from being presented overseas.

A meeting held in Manukau this week had members of the community calling for the "derogatory and irresponsible" report to be blocked from being taken to Brazil next month - where its author is due to front a marketing conference.

The academic paper, named Growing Pains, stated that Polynesian migrants were draining the New Zealand economy.

Criticism has been made towards the paper's author, Massey University lecturer Dr Greg Clydesdale, and the report - which is based on 2001 Census statistics, for using "old data".

Those at the meeting heard how the report, released last month, had come at a time when Pacific Island achievement was up.

A Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson said at the meeting that Dr Clydesdale's paper had been reviewed by three fellow academics, who acknowledged that the use of old data deemed it useless.

"Each of them basically questioned the data used and whether it's useful.

It's based on old statistics, therefore it is now incorrect.

"How can we use this information? I struggle to come up with an answer," he said.

Members of the public told of their disappointment and anger over the paper and called for the Pacific Island community in New Zealand to come together to make moves to stop the paper being taken overseas.

Pacific Island advisory committee member Tupou Manapori said: "We need to stop this report being taken to Brazil. It needs to stay here and never leave the shores of this country.

"It makes our Pacific people look bad across the world and so stopping this is our number one."

A review is also being carried out by the Race Relations Commission, looking more closely at the paper's content, the impact it has had on the community and media coverage on it.

Chief commissioner Rosslyn Noonan acknowledged the use of old data in the paper and therefore there needed to be moves made to ensure that more current information on ethnic peoples was readily available.

"What we found at the commission and many other places was when we looked up current information, there was none," she said.

A Pacific education co-ordinator, Nua Silipa, said it was unfair to be told that "my people" had not contributed to the New Zealand economy.

"How dare he say we don't contribute.

"I never saw my father because he worked two jobs.

"I have children who will be educated in this education system and who will read these things. What have we learned from this report?"

Dr Clydesdale could not be contacted yesterday, but Massey University's acting director for Pasifika, Sione Tu'itahi acknowledged that the discussion paper was "an academic's opinion. It's there for people to discuss". Mr Tu'itahi acknowledged that his colleague's paper was not a reflection of the entire university's view.

"The report is selective and the data that he used and the information he used is not new and therefore does not provide an accurate account."

- NZ Herald

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