Turia announces extra funds

By Laurel Stowell

Te Tai Hauauru MP Tariana Turia was pleased to have some good news to announce at this week's Iwi Chairs' Forum, which, she said, was becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Mrs Turia was able to announce a total of $34.5 million new funding to benefit Maori in this year's Budget, which is due out on Thursday, next week. Other subjects for the forum, which met at Ohakune's Maungarongo Marae on Monday and yesterday, were Maori interests in fresh water and the Whanau Ora initiative.

The biggest lump of money Mrs Turia announced was $21.3 million over four years, adding to an existing $24 million, to fight rheumatic fever in Porirua and Auckland. Rheumatic fever can follow a strep throat infection. It's a serious disease, which can lead to heart problems.

Maori children are 20 times more likely, and Pacific children 40 times more likely, to get rheumatic fever than Pakeha children.

It was a huge issue, Mrs Turia said - a Third World disease that existed where there was poverty, overcrowding and substandard homes.

Under its agreement with the Maori Party, the Government aims to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds, to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people.

It has already put throat swabbing clinics into schools.

The new funding would extend the free throat swabbing to GP clinics. It would also pay for an awareness campaign, research into a rheumatic fever vaccine and a referral and advice service for people with unhealthy homes.

Labour Party health spokeswoman Annette King said the throat-swabbing clinics at schools were a failure, and the money would be better put into primary health care, but Mrs Turia rejected that.

She said the communities where the clinics operated were excited by the programme. The incidence of rheumatic fever had plateaued, instead of increasing, and she was expecting it to drop. She had talked to families who had taken children with sore throats to a GP, and had found it didn't help.

"The GPs clearly didn't throat swab their children when they presented, and that strep throat went on into rheumatic fever."

Mrs Turia knew more could be done, but was pleased with Government's total investment of nearly $50 million in a time of budget constraint.

Another lump of extra money, $1.2 million in a one-year trial, is going toward the development of marae and community hubs.

She said this was for smaller groups that could extend their activities to provide training or courses in, for example, staying healthy or managing money. Runanga or community groups could apply to the Ministry of Social Development for it.

The Kainga Whenua land scheme is to get $12 million over four years to enable Maori to build on ancestral land. The money could be loaned out where multiple ownership made banks unwilling to lend, or it could be given as grants to buy infrastructure, such as roads, or provide water and power.

The Wanganui district has at least three groups that could make use of this.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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