Sharples takes heat off staff

01:43, Jan 31 2009
MEET AND GREET: Pita Sharples at Te Puni Kokiri with others of the Government delegation, from left, at Te Puni Kokiri. With him, from left, are Martin Wikaira, deputy director of the Foreign Affairs Ministry's Maori policy unit, and MPs Te Ururoa Flavell, Paula Bennett and Georgina te Heuheu.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples used humour to reassure Te Puni Kokiri's staff members their jobs were safe - saying they did not have to look for a new job "at least for a week".

Referring to comments earlier in the year that he wanted the Maori development agency revamped, he took a light-hearted approach yesterday as he met staff there to dispel their job security fears. "There is no major review going to be done on your department so you don't need to apply for any other job this week - or even next week," he said.

Dr Sharples led a powerful new Government delegation to the meeting, including his three fellow Maori Cabinet ministers, National's Georgina te Heuheu and Paula Bennett, and Maori Party co-leader, Tariana Turia. There was a lot of apprehension among staff in the buildup to the meeting, resulting from remarks Dr Sharples made earlier this year that he wanted to see Te Puni Kokiri revamped.

According to its website, the agency employs 335 permanent staff.

Dr Sharples confirmed yesterday that he intended placing greater emphasis on the work the department did on Maori health.

Among those at the meeting were agency chief executive Leith Comer, Maori Language Commission chairman Erima Henare and chief executive Huhana Rokx, Maori Television deputy chairman Wena Tait and chief executive Jim Mather, and Te Mangai Paho chair Jacqui Te Kani.

Also at yesterday's meet and greet session for the four Maori ministers were Maori Party MPs Te Ururoa Flavell and Rahui Katene, and National's new Maori list MPs Paul Quinn and Hekia Parata.



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