Govt needs to act on Maori homelessness - Maori Council

Long Lunch 07/09/2018
Photo: Getty.

The Government is failing to address the disproportionate number of Maori living on the streets, says New Zealand’s Maori Council.

The lack of present-day statistics is only exacerbating the problem, the council says, with the most recent Government report done five years prior.

Approximately one-third of New Zealand’s some 41,000 homeless are Maori, according to the 2013 report. Of the homeless Maori surveyed, 84 percent identified with at least one iwi.

“It’s really hard to get some fixed data on this. I mean we hear all the anecdotal stories about 1,000 empty state houses,” said Matthew Tukaki, chairman of New Zealand Maori Council’s Auckland District.

A homeless person in Auckland. Photo: Getty.

The Maori Council is calling for better research, more affordable housing, and frankly – some tangible action from the “intermingling of government agencies”.

While marae are known for welcoming those without homes, Mr Tukaki says it’s only a short-term solution.

“People have got to understand that there’s also pressure on a lot of these marae as well, to come up with the food, to come up with the bedding, to come up with the toilet paper and all the different things that go along with it.”

The Government needs to also address paths to homelessness, which Mr Tukaki says include access to employment, the “casualisation” of the workforce, and mental health.

“When they’re being discharged, where are they being discharged to? A lot of them are being discharged to our streets.”

Mr Tukaki suggests that Maori land should be used to build affordable homes, a move he believes Maori would be open to.

In May, the coalition Government announced a $100 million investment to tackle homelessness ahead of winter.

“We’re pulling out all the stops to support people in need and urgently increase housing supply this winter. We’re also investing heavily in the future of the Housing First programme to support our most vulnerable homeless people and families,” Housing Minister Phil Twyford said in a statement.

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