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Budget Debate : Tariana Turia, Co-Leader Of The Maori Party

Contributor:
Voxy Newswire
Voxy Newswire
Tariana Turia
Tariana Turia

WEDNESDAY 8 JUNE 2011; 5.00PM

I too am really pleased today to speak to this budget. A typical budget in any household will look at all the costs to be accounted for, weigh up the essentials alongside the luxuries, and provide a plan for how best to pay for the bills and perhaps deal to the debt.

Our budget is no different. Except for Budget 2011, it’s all about essential spending, with no room for luxury items.

The essential items that I want to focus on budget lines associated with rheumatic fever; family violence; sexual health.

I define these as essential items in that they are intimately and directly associated with the health and wellbeing of a family; and yet too often they are issues which have been associated with poverty, with prejudice, with pressure – and consequently haven’t received the attention that they warrant.

Throughout all of our decisions in Budget 2011 we have tried to advocate for those who are the most vulnerable, those who need it most.

And I have to say that one of the most promising pieces of policy advice that I have ever seen from The Treasury is John Whitehead’s swansong statement on living standards, where he declared that tighter budgets require an even greater focus on making sure that resources go to those who need it most.

The Living Standards report addresses the need to improve the living standards of those who have a poor long-term outlook. It is a theme dear to my heart.

The Maori Party from our first day in this Parliament, has raised questions about the quality and efficiency of the annual spend across the state sector.

Is it getting to those who need it the most? Is the trickle-down theory working out for the people who should benefit? Is there a better use of limited funds so that we actually make the difference that we seek?

It is these questions that have motivated us in Budget 2011.

In the Family Violence field, all the evaluations of the ‘It’s not OK’ campaign were telling us that it was not just enough to have raised awareness, families and friends wanted to know exactly what they needed to do to get help.

The research told us that people felt the television ads had helped them understand that violence is unacceptable and change is possible. Budget 2011 builds on that research, and is targeted to help create the longer-term changes that are needed to prevent violence from recurring.

I have to say that it’s not been universally popular – but I have no regrets about our decision to focus on frontline services, services that are focused on restoring family safety and family wellbeing where the violence has occurred.

And while I can appreciate the concerns of providers where programme funding has been cut, or potentially they stand to lose workers as a result of the new direction, at the end of the day we have to think of the bigger picture – and that is, of course, what we can all do to protect our families from harm.

Our greatest campaign must be our fight to support families to bring back the balance in their lives; and to be violence free. The great bulk of the funding is now going into a family centred services fund – which encourages flexibility, for families to achieve longer-term transformational change in their environment.

In the current climate, funding is limited and we have to make sure that every taxpayer dollar is invested where it will have the most impact. There was no new funding – and so I wanted to channel the $11m that I have responsibility for, to services at the frontline so that families in crisis are kept safe and are supported to be resilient and strong. And I make no apology for that.

The focus of the funding in family violence, is also to encourage providers to work together to reduce service fragmentation, duplication and gaps – to provide more effective frontline services that better respond to local need.

There are very much the same factors that influenced me in redirecting some $1.5 million of funding spread across thousands of groups in 37 various regions, under the mantle of the Community Organisation Grant scheme.

 

We all know that we have communities that have significant issues with little or no funding. Funding has been small in the past and this does little to create sustainability.

 

So rather than a widely dispersed lollie scramble approach which gives a little to a lot I wanted to do something different – be a bit bolder, place our trust in communities to address their own issues in an approach which encourages existing groups in a region to work together for the good of the community.

When it came to our initiatives in health, what we looked for again, was what would achieve the greatest gain.

Top on my list was doing something about the appalling rates of rheumatic fever that has come to light.

No Government could ignore rates of rheumatic fever which are now fourteen times higher in New Zealand than in any other OECD country. We should all be ashamed of that.

And although I am sure there will be questions at some stage about how we got to this point, especially after long years in which we should have fixed this, in housing, and right across the social services - my focus is firmly fixed on what we can do, to make the difference, not what we haven’t done.

The concern for us in the Maori Party is to observe that the large disparity between ethnic groups appears to have worsened over the past twenty years. The mean incidence rates for Māori and Pasifika children aged between five and 14 are now between 20 and 40 times higher than for other New Zealand children of the same age. This is utterly catastrophic.

And yet this is an entirely preventable disease that can have serious consequences for children during childhood and throughout their lifetime. The whole thing is rheumatic fever impacts on our children and indeed for the families, for a long time.

And so the twelve million dollar investment announced in this Budget will support a number of initiatives such as increasing front line community staff, school-based sore throat clinics and a range of research and training programmes for health professionals and community workers.
The other announcement I made in health was to target the particular high risk groups that need it most, in the sexual health and reproductive health arena.

And so I’ve put focus on a range of areas – addressing the incidence of Chlamydia in rangatahi; supporting African communities, expanding health promotion initiatives aimed at reducing the stigma faced by people living with HIV and AIDS.

There are other highlights that I’m really proud of with this Budget:

· $6.5 million to expand family-based literacy programmes to all decile one two and three schools – thank you Minister Tolley; and

· funding of $3.3 million for community-based initiatives to increase digital literacy and connection;

· and of course the major highlight - the investment of an additional $30 million in Whanau Ora.

This investment confirms and validates the momentum and the potential of the Whanau Ora Approach in uplifting whanau, to increase their capacity and capability and to reduce over time their reliance on government funded services.

What we know already, is that several hundred whanau including several thousand individuals are already engaged in planning and development at the whanau level and are connecting to existing service delivery and increasingly to the Whanau Ora service providers.

Our whanau are our greatest source of strength – their needs can not be put aside as a luxury item for another year. The investment we have made in placing Whanau Ora on everyone’s agenda could not have come too soon.  

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