Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Nats-Maori deal to help poor

Maori Party co-leaders Pita Sharples (left) and Tariana Turia sign a confidence and supply agreement with Prime Minister John Key. Photo / SNPA
Maori Party co-leaders Pita Sharples (left) and Tariana Turia sign a confidence and supply agreement with Prime Minister John Key. Photo / SNPA

Prime Minister John Key says the support deal with the Maori Party focuses heavily on getting results in education, housing and unemployment, particularly youth unemployment.

He hinted at an initiative to replace last term's youth job schemes.

He suggested his second-term Government would be more focused on addressing poverty issues.

He said the global financial crisis had disproportionately hit low-income New Zealanders, as it had in developed countries throughout the world. "The focus of this agreement over the next three years is very heavily pointed towards outcomes and results in some critical areas, namely education, housing, health and employment."

The deal sets up a high-powered ministerial committee on poverty with Finance Minister Bill English and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia and will include the ministers of education, health, housing, Maori Affairs, and social welfare.

Mr Key said it would identify issues associated with poverty and implement programmes.

Mrs Turia said the committee would report to the House on any gains that were made. "It will hold agencies accountable for the work programme that they've got to ensure that we are addressing significant issues that are affecting families."

The agreement foreshadows a shake-up in the way Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Maori Development, operates with a focus on jobs, education and housing. That may pit Mrs Turia against her co-leader, Pita Sharples, who retains his post as Minister of Maori Affairs. The deal also advances Mrs Turia's plan for greater self-determination for Maori with the promise of a stand-alone commissioning agency for the delivery of social services through her term-one baby, whanau ora.

Mr Key signed the deal yesterday afternoon with Mrs Turia and Dr Sharples in the old Maori Affairs committee room at Parliament. With 61 seats required to govern in the 121 seat Parliament, Mr Key has the numbers with one apiece from Act and United Future. The Maori Party's three votes of confidence and supply give him a cushion, with 64 votes.

Mr Key said without the Maori Party, it would be a bit like the All Black win [against France]. "We'd be there by one. But one can sometimes be a little bit tight for comfort. So it's nice to have those extra three votes."

The Maori Party will have greater freedom than Act and United Future because it is not bound to support National's so-called Action Plan, including partial asset sales.

The agreement followed 40 Maori Party hui last week, which Dr Sharples said had been attended by 1000 people and had unanimously backed a second support deal with National.

Mrs Turia said it was "highly likely" she and Dr Sharples would remain in Parliament for the full term. "I'm starting to think after doing all of the hui that I might stay here 'til I'm 80 actually. I have had such a huge amount of people begging me to stay."

MAJOR INITIATIVES

* Develop a stand-alone commissioning agency for whanau ora in the next 12 months.
* Ministerial committee on poverty chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, and deputy-chaired by Tariana Turia.
* Doubling of the rheumatic fever programme from $12m to $24m.
* Insulate 20,000 low-income homes.
* Progress iwi as housing providers through the Social Housing Unit.
* Provide places to reflect Maori youth unemployment rate (about 25 per cent) in new jobs and training programmes.
* Refocus Te Puni Kokiri on Maori employment, training, housing and education outcomes.
* Work on plain packaging for cigarettes.

- NZ Herald

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