By Pita Sharples
The Maori Party has never forgotten how we got into Parliament – voted in by ordinary people, following a mass march of Māori to protect the rangatiratanga of the takutai moana. So the issues of ordinary people have always been a priority for us.
Poverty is one of our issues. We have pledged to end whānau poverty by 2020, to promote a minimum wage of $16 per hour, to extend the tax credit to all low-income families, and to provide various types of support for low-income families.
Our MPs met recently with the Service and Food Workers’ Union, and agreed to support the campaign for a living wage. That means workers earning enough money to support their families, and to be able to participate in society.
It does not mean holding down three cleaning jobs, on the minimum wage, so you never get to see your kids, never have enough money to send them on school trips and you can’t stay home when they are sick because you won’t be able to pay your bills.
It does mean earning enough money to go to the doctor when you need to, to take the kids to the movies for their birthday, and to have a holiday every year. You can’t do that by working normal hours on the minimum wage.
But the Māori Party is unique because we build on kaupapa Māori for all New Zealanders. We look at poverty in a Māori way, and we use Māori approaches to address complex issues like poverty.
For us, poverty is not just about having enough money. Our tipuna lived for thousands of years without any money at all! They fished and hunted and gardened for their food, they made their own clothes and tools, and they traded with other iwi for things they needed.
Even with no money, you would not say our tipuna lived in poverty. They were confident, proud and independent people; they worked for what they needed, their children were happy.
What they had was rangatiratanga – control over their own destiny, the power to make their own decisions and face the consequences and the ability to choose their own future.
Poverty is the opposite of rangatiratanga. The Māori Party approach to poverty is not just to increase benefits, or even to raise the minimum wage. It’s about empowering whānau to regain control of their destiny, to look after each other and provide for each other. That is the essence of Whānau Ora!
Pita Sharples is MP for Tāmaki Makaurau and Māori Party Co-leader