Address Maori male violence says MP

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 05:00 02/02/2014

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Iwi leaders are too focused on "hustling resources out of the Government" and not doing enough to address the violence among young Maori men, Labour MP Shane Jones says.

Jones has hit out ahead of the Waitangi Day celebrations on Thursday and following a number of high-profile attacks on foreign visitors which he said was putting New Zealand's reputation as a safe international destination at risk.

"[It is] high time iwi leaders stopped obsessing over the ownership of earth, wind and fire and showed more ownership over the miserable record of the violence culture afflicting our young men," said Jones, who hails from Northland's Ngapuhi iwi.

He pointed to the attack on German tourists in Whakatane in December which left a 19-year-old man with missing teeth as well as cuts and bruises and an 18-year-old woman with facial and arm injuries including fractures.

There had been a number of such attacks on tourists "and they invariably involve our young men".

Each time there was "an egregious case of wanton violence", there was a "tendency to fall back into a cuzzy bro culture".

"Far too many of us serve up soupy excuses, that's not good enough. You can't deliver effective iwi leadership by just being a stern critic of society. We've got to be capable of censuring and uplifting ourselves."

Iwi leaders tended not to see Maori crime as their problem, something he described as "a cancerous miscalculation".

"They are in a position of privilege and that privilege carries obligations," he said. "Jobs and industry are desperately needed, however equally important is our duty to censure and challenge the misery of Māori male violence."

Ngapuhi chief executive George Riley said they had long ago acknowledged they had a problem, with Ngapuhi men disproportionately represented in violence statistics, but were working to address the issue.

"The violence which permeates society broadly and which is reflected in statistics back to Ngapuhi is anathema to our board and to our old people," he said.

Ngapuhi children made up about half the children in Child Youth and Family care, he said, while many Ngapuhi members had also left the region not only for better opportunities but to move away from the violence "that's perpetrated by ourselves on ourselves".

"So we cannot resile from Shane's comments. Our leadership is trying really hard to do things."

The iwi had signed a memorandum of understanding with CYF and had decreased the number of Ngapuhi children in state care from about 500 this time last year to about 300 now, he said.

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They had also adopted the Maori Party's Whanau Ora model and were working with Ngapuhi men to promote their role within their families as caretakers of their whanau.

They were also looking into a programme in conjunction with the Youth Court which would see them working with young offenders, and with those about to be released into society, to help find them jobs and homes and try to prevent them from reoffending.

"I think that is where much of our effective work can be done, not so much in terms of sending statements via the media or to individuals about their behaviours, they would regret them themselves as soon as they were sober or drug free."

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell questioned the timing of the comments and said addressing violence among Maori was the responsibility of a number of groups including iwi leaders, the state and whanau.

Placing all the responsibility on one group or sector "is to isolate the issue".

"You can't have iwi leaders being involved inside bedrooms or in homes where we've got to take responsibility as whanau."

"Every effort" was being made to tackle the issue of violence and it's underlying causes, he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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