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PSA objects New Zealand government's proposed cuts to Te Puni Kōkiri

Joseph Guenzler -

The New Zealand Government's proposed reforms are under intense scrutiny, as concerns mount over their potential impact on Māori support.

This scrutiny is specifically focused on the restructuring plans for Te Puni Kōkiri, the agency entrusted with advising on Māori wellbeing and development.

Te Puni Kōkiri has informed its staff of plans to cut 38 positions, constituting 8 per cent of its current workforce, as part of a government-mandated cost-cutting initiative.

The proposed restructuring aims to reduce the agency's staff from 472 to 434 roles.

Janice Panoho, serving as Te Kaihautū Māori for the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi, has criticised the reduction as another imprudent decision by the government.

The Public Service Association, or PSA, is a democratic trade union with over 90,000 workers in the New Zealand public sector.

"Losing this many specialist roles will have a direct impact on the kaimahi (workers) and their whanau (family) including the services they provide to iwi Māori and the community," Ms Panoho said.

"This cut continues the attack on support for Māori health and wellbeing that is becoming a hallmark of this Government's cost cutting drive."

Earlier this month, Oranga Tamariki announced a reduction in its focus on Te Ao Māori, by terminating 21 specialist Māori positions, despite the fact that two-thirds of young people in care are of Māori descent.

Oranga Tamariki, also known as the Ministry for Children and previously the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, is a government department in New Zealand responsible for the well-being of children, specifically children at risk of harm, youth offenders and children of the State.

The Oranga Tamariki consultation document states that "our approach to Te Ao Māori has now reached a state of maturity that means we can move to the next stage of cultural capability development".

"It's simply wrong to claim that Oranga Tamariki has reached a 'state of maturity' in Te Ao Māori," Ms Panoho said.

"This is a disturbing pattern of change forced upon agencies by the Government.

"Since being established in 1992, Te Puni Kōkiri has played an important role in promoting better outcomes for Māori in health, training and employment, education and economic development."

Given Māori's ongoing disparities compared to Pakeha (non-Indigenous New Zealander) across various wellbeing and development metrics, critics say the government should look to increase investment in this crucial kaupapa (cause/policy), rather than reduce it.

The issues are similar to those found in Australia which 'Close The Gap' policies aim to address, targets which are also not being met.

"The PSA will be opposing these changes," Ms Panoho said.

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