Focusing on child poverty

I am writing this in the evening of Waitangi Day, having spent the past week flying between Wellington, Christchurch and Ratana Pa twice in two weeks, Waitangi, and finally today at Otakou Marae outside Dunedin.

One of the things I celebrate about Waitangi Day is the opportunity to catch up with whanau and friends or, in Maori terms, whanaungatanga, which is a relationship or a sense of family connection through shared experiences and working together. That extends to all those with whom one develops a close familial relationship.

So, whether I'm at Waitangi and catching up with my mother's Ngati Hine whanaunga or in Te Tai Tonga among my father's Ngai Tahu whanaunga, there is always a sense of belonging and oneness.

I think the same could be said for many across Aotearoa who look upon the day as an opportunity to share a kai and catch up on each other's news.

In Murihiku on Waitangi Day, this was happening on the Oreti River. The five waka ama from marae and runanga took to the water to encourage others to join in, but the primary objective was whakawhanaungatanga.

With many iwi now in post- settlement mode, the talk on the marae on Waitangi Day turns not to past grievances but to current issues.

High on the list is the issue of child poverty.

Last week, Labour announced the first of its major policies, called Best Start. It was created with an intention of ensuring every child has the best start in life. We will increase eligibility for free early childhood education for 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children from 20 hours to 25 hours a week. This includes kohanga reo. Other points: Restore funding cut in 2010 for centres with many qualified staff

Funding to support expansion of early childhood education in high- deprivation areas: All women will have access to free antenatal classes, with a focus on first-time mums and those who would benefit from them the most

Extended Well Child/Tamariki Ora visits so families with the most need get extra support

Registering new mums with GPs, Well Child/Tamariki Ora provider, the immunisation register and a dental health provider.

Paid parental leave extended from 14 weeks to 26 weeks

For families receiving paid parental leave, entitlement to the Best Start payment will commence at the end of the household's time using paid parental leave.

You can access the full fact sheets at my office in Esk St.

Rino Tirikatene is MP for Te Tai Tonga.

The Southland Times