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‘Sophisticated racism’ call

By Gerald Ford

New Zealand has the “most sophisticated forms of racism on the globe”, former Associate Minister of Maori Affairs John Tamihere told an audience in Masterton last week – as he predicted the failure of the planned Ministry for Vulnerable Children that will launch next year.

Mr Tamihere was speaking at a symposium, Mokopuna Centred Solutions, organised by Te Hauora Runanga o Wairarapa and Whaiora, at Copthorne Resort Solway Park on Friday.

The two-day conference included ideas for the new agency to replace Child Youth and Family(CYFs) which will open next year.

It was attended byCYFs senior officials , which next year will be relaunched as the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki.

Mr Tamihere is a former Labour MP who from 2002 to 2004 was a Cabinet minister in Helen Clark’s government, being minister of Small Business, Youth Affairs, Statistics, Land Information – as well as Associate Minister of Maori Affairs behind the late Parekura Horomia.

Mr Tamihere predicted  the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children will “start next year and fail the year after”.

He said the 30-page document detailing plans for the agency mentioned whanau once and mokopuna (grandchildren) not at all.

“What business launches without talking to 68 percent of its client base? They will go bankrupt.”

Mr Tamihere said CYF had had “14 failures in its brief life” and overseen situations where children were “injured and abuse and led to the death of our moko”.

“This country continues to provide the most sophisticated forms of racism on the globe. You can see it, you can smell it, but you can’t touch it … but we’re getting there,” Mr Tamihere said.

“I’ve had enough of people feasting off our failure.”

Mr Tamihere said “locally driven solutions are the solutions” and Maori needed solutions that were “self-designed and self-managed”.

“There is a constitutional right and entitlement here that we want asserted and crystallised on the street.”

“Everyone is of worth, they’re not just someone to be prodded and served up whatever. People say they’ve got nowhere else to go, no other options. Surely there are other options for our young people than taking their lives at an early age.”

Mr Tamihere is involved in a health database provider, Whanau Tahi, with data that is “anonymised and protected” and monitored in real time.

“We now know our interventions save the State (money),” he said.

He gave an example of a solo mum in South Auckland woman who is about to be evicted from her “private, MSD subsidised” home for non-payment of around $500 rent.

“If payment is not made she is in emergency accommodation, her kids will be taken off her, and you have a three-month period of dumb management by the State.”

Instead the agencies were able to make the call and make the payment on the woman’s behalf and “bring sanity straight away”.

“We don’t want to be queued as third class citizens and treated as a burden and a mongrel for turning up there… if you think CYFs is bad, the rot is right through … we’ve got to call a spade a spade.”

Mr Tamihere said providers need to monitor what money is set aside for social services in their region, and where it is going.

“We have to start regulating each other’s patches in our towns, because there’s enough resolve to fix it, and it’s not fixed.”

He said health providers are being “deep-dived and audited all the time” while bureaucrats remain unaccountable.

“You know what it is Maoris have to do, ay? They won’t trust us near the till.”

Mr Tamihere told the conference attendees, to “keep the struggle up, it is the strength of you working together, not being nickel-and-dimed and divided and ruled through the crumbs … let’s not be divided and ruled.”

He said in Government bureaucracy, “there are certain people, entrenched in their views, who are adverse to our ability to self-manage”.

“Why don’t you own up to the fact that you’re failing, and hand over the pingers, bro?

“In any ecosystem, you’ve got to have bottom dwellers for the top dweller to really feast; we’ve got to get off the bottom.”

Speaking after the conference Mr Tamihere said as a minister he had tried to address the inefficiencies but the average minister lasts six years and the average bureaucrat 21.

“People say don’t bite the hand that feeds you. You’ve given me a malnutrition diet (then) I’ve got to take you out before I starve to death. You’ve got to have people challenging on the margin, otherwise nothing changes.”



  1. As a Pakeha, I can probably agree with some of what is being said here, my worry is that Mr Tamihere’s views seem to be steadfast against a system which was voted out of office last November. .

    There is one thing that I cannot agree with is that it is all children of colour that are discriminated against. Many, many white children face discrimination which is a form of racism, in NZ. In fact it is probably those same people who support Maori, thats when I think it is a shame Maori does not have a more inclusive attitude to those like minded people. Maybe I only think that because I do not live in NZ so I am looking in from the Pacific.

  2. couldn’t agree more and what has happened to tino rangatiratanga as long as the worst culprit are state employees and their political masters.

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