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Politicians must agree on the big stuff if the nation is to build back stronger: Maori Authority

National Maori Authority Chair Matthew Tukaki: Seize the opportunity to invest and grow – Budget 2021 / National Maori Authority Release paper on the Maori Economy

The Chair of the National Maori Authority, Matthew Tukaki, has told a business seminar in Wellington that New Zealand must seize the opportunity to both invest and grow as budget 2021 looms. Tukaki focused on a message of combining addressing poverty and deprivation with economic stimulus and growth “we can do all of these things at once, but we must be bold and brave while also be committed to the longer-term impacts of the pandemic” Tukaki said

“The reality is that New Zealand is not isolated in confronting a raft of social, economic and environmental challenges. The Pandemic has been a wakeup call for all of us and to be frank when it comes to the social challenges, we already faced pre-COVID these have simply been amplified and in some cases grown larger – I am of course talking about things such as mental health demand right through to unemployment and financial distress.” Tukaki said.

“But from those lessons we need to find new ways of thinking because always only doing what we have already done and getting the same result has not been working for the country. The reforms in health are needed – it doesn’t matter which way you argue a point the reality is we have known for years that the DHB model was no longer fit for purpose. We know Maori health indicators are terrible – so let’s be bold and do that something new now, embed, learn further lessons and innovate.” Tukaki said.

“We have known that simply opening the borders for low, mid-level and highly skilled workers hasn’t worked because here we are facing the same labour shortages – again doing the same thing and hoping for the best. The advent of the Workforce Development Councils as part of the Polytechnic reforms is fundamental to us developing up workforce plans in areas of critical need – trades, both digital and traditional, mental health, nursing, teaching and much more. If we don’t have a plan for building up the domestic workforce then we will continue to put our economic development at risk – so lets build up the Workforce Development Council proposition and embark on training and retraining our workforce to meet demand.” Tukaki said.

“And then there is business itself – lets take a reality check here. We need to focus our time and attention on further diversifying the New Zealand economy and that means also looking at hedging away from reliance on traditional industries. We know that our fisheries are under pressure – climate and population growth around the world are putting pressure on the resource. The same is true of dairy and forestry – so what are our industries of the future? The last 12 months has taught us we cannot be reliant on the tourism dollar for a long time to come nor can we be reliant on the international education market being a primary export earner. That means the shape and form of our industries need to change.” Tukaki said.

“Investing in high net value manufacturing, harnessing our intellectual property and looking and new ways and means of accessing new markets. Free trade negotiations with the EU and the UK must not be about business-as-usual agreements – and we should not just be fixated on those traditional markets. Its time for our nation to look further afield and that includes strengthening our partnerships into South East Asia and opening up the growing Latin American sector.” Tukaki said

“And for Maori, I say to everyone, all we are doing is trying to realise our hopes and aspirations by also seizing opportunities. This budget needs to include clear markers for how we might do that. We can build a house – but that’s only half the job. What we need to ensure is that whanau have a job, have an income and this fight of only keeping their heads above water is consigned to history. That aspiration also needs to extend to all of our whanau living past retirement – that it doesn’t end in poverty or financial distress” Tukaki said

“This is one of those once in a generation opportunities not just to build back better but to innovate and seize the chance to build back greater. To do that we need to end the descension into madness around race and politicians need to take the high ground – there is no reason why we cannot all agree on the big stuff and debate through good public policy the points where we might disagree.” Tukaki said

“Our focus should be on social, economic and environmental development -all three move as one. In not doing so we run the risk of never being aspirational to the point we consign poverty to history.” Tukaki said

Tukaki welcomed the Prime Ministers approach to establish an implementation unit to be lead by Finance Minister Grant Robertson


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