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While Grant Robertson was announcing increased benefits and higher spending on social services I couldn’t help thinking that his chances of achieving better outcomes remained slender. Since the last election, government agencies have been instructed by ministers to “partner” with Maori in particular and to favour them ahead of other races whenever funding is discussed. Agencies must seek to involve Iwi in decision-making at all levels. But experience is showing them what others have known for years: such a process slows decision-making because Iwi don’t have the structures to ensure swift conclusions.

Moreover, the government’s professed determination to improve Maori well-being seems to overlook the efforts that have been made by its various agencies over many years now. For decades the Ministry and district health boards, for instance, have been trying to reach Maori whose health outcomes are poorer than those of other races. Officials chase patients who have specialist appointments, but the “do not show” figures remain high; use of freely available flu jabs for those eligible is lower; when medicines are prescribed, pharmacists are often left with uncollected items; polls show Maori are the most reluctant to be vaccinated against Covid; Maori smoking statistics exceed those of other groups; and dietary care still seems to be a low priority. While “by Maori, for Maori” solutions are much promoted these days, many state-funded agencies have been endeavouring to achieve them for years. Maori nurses and teachers, however, are hard to find, and Maori doctors even harder. Scholarships are needed to encourage training, but the arrival in the work force of substantial numbers of new, fully qualified Maori practitioners remains years away.

While all this is true, and public service numbers have risen 8.6% over the last year, another part of the recent budget is actively working against the government’s proclaimed intention to diminish poverty. Lifting benefits across the board lessens the attraction of low skilled work and can have the effect of reducing efforts to self-improve. Last week there was a news item about an employer who gave a young man a job. The lad turned up next day, bright eyed and bushy tailed, did a good day’s work, but failed to show the following day. When contacted, the young fellow told the employer that the work was too hard, and besides he could get nearly as much money by remaining on a benefit. Apple-growers and winemakers are familiar with such stories. Despite roadside signs offering fruit picking jobs everywhere in Hawke’s Bay when I visited a few weeks ago, apples lay on the ground under trees, while grape-growers had also been finding it difficult. Contract workers from marae who once worked at the Gimblett Gravels harvests couldn’t be bothered making the effort. It seems quite clear that open entitlement to the dole encourages lethargy, rather than energy, and Robertson’s higher benefits are unlikely to fix the problem. And because of Covid there are very few imported seasonal workers. Result? Fruit worth millions of dollars hasn’t been harvested this year.

Perhaps some government initiatives will have a beneficial effect for Maori? Let’s hope so. At the very least, all assistance packages should be given measurable targets that must be attained. But I fear we’ll find that the statistics – assuming they are properly monitored – will show very little improvement despite the billions that are being spent.

Incentives have to be right before people, whoever they are, make the effort to improve their lives. Sir Apirana Ngata realized this eighty years ago when he advised the leaders of the first Labour Government to be careful about monetary benefits and tie assistance to goals that an intended beneficiary could reasonably be expected to achieve. Elements of this thinking remained embedded in our welfare state for decades. Once upon a time, continued access to an Unemployment Benefit depended on providing evidence one was actively seeking work, or was engaged in an up-skilling programme of some kind. But successive governments gradually reduced conditions for receipt of a benefit. The result has been that multi generations remain in poverty with all the social costs to them, and to the taxpayer. Bill English realised this and tried to turn things around, but our “kind” Princess abolished his scheme when she came to office. The numbers on benefits have grown.

I’m prepared to bet there will be little evidence of poverty reduction by the time of the next election and, like what has happened these last three years, there will be several indictors that “progress” is actually going backwards. Didn’t someone once say that the height of stupidity was to keep on with failing policies in the expectation one would achieve a different outcome?

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13 commentaires

30 mai 2021

Hi all,

Just to add my 'two pennies worth' . On the theme touching both beneficiaries and rehabilitating prisoners. A true account.

In 2017 I was working for the Department of Corrections. I was working with people who were on probation. Many of them unemployed and sadly many were Maori or Polynesion who tend to dominate those on probation. I set up a scheme to help them find employment. I managed to secure an excellent arrangement with a warehouse for a major retail company (I cannot name them out of privacy issues) and they were willing to take a 'gamble' on these people despite their previous criminal offending and offered seven fully paid positions, all PPE gear and work clot…

30 mai 2021
En réponse à

My husband's previous employer had similar experiences... they offerred ex-cons jobs from time to time, and always got their hand bitten. Gave up.


If I lost my job tomorrow, I'm 100% certain I could get another within a few days.

Why? Because I want to work.

Meanwhile, my husband's company has had a sales job available for SIX MONTHS here in Dunedin. They can't get anyone to fill it.

Why? Because the majority of beneficiaries do not want to work.

Solution? Cut benefits. Why should we workers pay for people to be lazy?


Good morning!

No,no,no, Michael!

Even though I agreed with Dr Brash, Rodney and Karl I can't agree with this one.

If the fruit was rotting on the ground one of our intrepid MSM reporters would have been onto this pushing the government until it was resolved. Any way all the farmers voted for this according to MSM. They are happy as!

As for "child poverdy" . Jacinda eliminated that one four years ago. She told us so. So no worries on that front.

Also she has baked a cake and is organising her wedding. Tova O B for bridesmaid perhaps?

Us Papamoans don't need to worry about the multitude of claims on our seabed and foreshore, Andrew Little said "…


What do y'all think Jacinda Ardern's answer would be IF she possibly told the truth?


For a,closer analysis of this very issue, go and watch tonight's Counterspin

Tonight's broadcast and previous can be found at

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