Waipareira Trust boss John Tamihere today likened Ministry of Social Development bureaucrats to cockroaches and labelled one of their top bosses untrustworthy as he builds a Waitangi Tribunal case alleging discrimination against Maori social service providers.
Mr Tamihere who is the trust chief executive called a hui of providers from around the country at Hoani Waititi marae. For too long he said providers with government contracts had been treated like second class citizens alleging they are paid less to do the same work as their publicly contracted counterparts.
Leaders from Christchurch, Hawke's Bay, Tauranga, Tainui and Auckland packed the wharenui and voted to set up a governance group to co-ordinate evidence gathering at a regional level.
Mr Tamihere is in dispute over the loss of a $1.4 million Family Start contract. He said the way MSD had handled its termination was symptomatic of the way Maori providers were treated. He singled out Murray Edridge, the ministry's head of Family and Community services for particular criticism. Mr Edridge has fronted for the Crown on the Family Start dispute.
"If [Maori] providers are] a bit uppity you'll get hammered for it. When they say 'jump' they want you to say 'how high.' Those days are gone.
"This guy [Mr Edridge] isn't trustworthy I can't deal with an untrustworthy [person]. I don't lightly level that allegation against anyone."
Different rates of pay amounted to a "pervasive, discriminatory policy," and the group would be looking at contracts in different regions to build a national tribunal case. Bureaucrats were about to be bombarded by requests for contract data, he said. "You watch those cockroaches when the lights come on, we're going to have to do that...We just want one law for all."
Mr Edridge he wouldn't be drawn on personal insults, but noted that Waipareira received one of the highest per family rates of any Family Start provider in the country.
"Rather than getting involved in petty name calling, I am focussed on the real issues facing vulnerable children and families. I am aware that Waipareira Trust intends to lodge a claim with the Waitanig Tribunal. We will watch this development with interest," Mr Edridge said.
Mr Tamihere has raised some outside support from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation. NZNO kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said nurses who worked for Maori organisations were paid less: "It is unacceptable that nurses and other health workers who work for Maori and iwi health providers are paid up to 25 percent less than their colleagues who work for DHBs. The Government talks about the importance of improving health outcomes for Maori and yet they are comfortable paying our nurses less and expecting them to do more. "
Another speaker, Ngaiterangi's Paul Stanley said the equity issues "absolutely undermined" the aims of the government's flagship Whanau Ora policy.