Māori prison rate called ‘a New Zealand issue’, not a Māori issue

The AM Show 07/02/2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern used her Waitangi speech on Tuesday to highlight the disproportionate numbers of Māori in prison.

She announced that so long as the incarceration gap exists, the Government has failed its end of the partnership.

RadioLIVE newsreader Aroha Hathaway joined The AM Show panel to give her own perspective on the disproportionate Māori incarceration rate.

Ms Hathaway argued that the incarceration rate is a New Zealand problem, not a Māori problem.

“It’s always a Māori inmate. It’s someone who’s Māori who has been picked up down South,” she said of media headlines.

She points out that news organisations rarely identify people as Pākehā, but typically indicate when the person of interest is Māori. However, she said “that’s changing.”

“If you abuse someone in a relationship for four years – how long does it take you to undo all the mistreatment in a relationship?” Ms Hathaway said. “A lot longer than four years.”

Jacinda Ardern on Waitangi Day. Photo: Newshub.

Ms Ardern spoke about the distance between Māori and Pākehā in a historic speech from Waitangi's Te Whare Runanga.

"The distance between here and there is unemployment, poverty that exists among whānau, those who don't have access to mental health services, incarceration of the Māori people disproportionate to everyone else," Ms Ardern said.

"That is the distance. I believe in our power to change."

But the Government won't attempt to close those gaps by taking affirmative action for Māori.

"We should put extra emphasis wherever there are disproportionate figures. There are disproportionately more Māori represented in poverty and unemployment and in our health statistics," Ms Ardern said when asked whether the Government will target Māori.

Labour's coalition partner New Zealand First has had a long-standing opposition to "race-based" policies, such as affirmative action.

Watch the full panel with Aroha Hathaway and Sarah Henry above. 

The AM Show with Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson, weekdays 6-9am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.