The restructure of TPK is said to include:
• Major redundancies
• Closure of many branch offices
• Reducing TPK’s role to social issues (education, employment and housing)
• The removal of major responsibilities (economic development, Matauranga Maori including WAI 262, Marae Development, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights, Te Reo Maori, Broadcasting, Land and Resource Development, and Whanau Ora)
This doesn’t come as a surprise. Wellington rumour has had it that TPK was always in the government’s sights, it was just a matter of when.
TPK advises the government, including other government agencies, on all issues Maori. From Maori economic development to Maori social well being. TPK has a $60m budget, employs over 300 staff and operates, from my count, 21 offices including a head office in Wellington. Media reports so far have indicated that 50 jobs will go. This comes on top of 60 redundancies and an $8m funding cut in the last three years.
The Maori Party signalled their intentions to restructure TPK prior to the election. This was consistent with their intentions pre-2008, but upon taking office Pita Sharples backed down and assured TPK employees that there would be no cuts. I would have imagined the Maori Party’s idea of restructuring differed radically from National’s understanding of the word. The Maori Party would be thinking reshuffle, but National would be thinking redundancies. However, judging from the Maori Party's silence on redundancies one can assume that they support the cuts.
In my opinion, TPK probably doesn't need to be restructered. The Ministry has one of the widest briefs of any department, but is, relatively speaking, small in terms of staff numbers and budget. As above, TPK has already downsized significantly, but its workload has increased. In 2010 TPK was tasked with planning, implementing and evaluating the Maori response to the Canterbury earthquake. That same year TPK was given responsibility for developing, implementing and evaluating Whanau Ora.
Sure, TPK has come under fire in the past and rightly so. For example, in 2010 Leith Comer, the CEO of TPK, advised staff not to work so hard following their, in my opinion, excellent work in the wake of the Canterbury earthquake. However, that same year TPK, apparently, rated highly in performance reviews. This contradicts information from TVNZ that TPK was judged the worst performing ministry in an independent survey.
If the government decides to go ahead with a demolition job on TPK the quality of advice Ministers and government agencies receive will be poor to pathetic. The DPMC doesn’t have the in-house capabilities to properly and expertly advise Ministers on Maori issues. No other government agency has the in-house capabilities either. The result will be a government that fumbles Maori issues.
Ordinary Maori will also be hit. Many Maori will lose their jobs if, or when, regional offices are closed. Maori trying to access TPK services, like business grants and advice, will have to deal with a decreased service.
Once again Hone Harawira is on top of this. He's slammed the Maori Party and National. He's taken the high road while the Maori Party is left searching for an appropriate response. Like their response to the s9 controversy, they've found themselves on the back foot. On Closeup last night Pita Sharples didn't show, instead Leith Comer did. Actually, Sharples refused to front any media yesterday. It looks like he's running from this. The same is true today, Winston Peters and Hone Harawira fronted Morning Report and poured acid on the Maori Party and National. Labour also released a statement criticising the cuts.
Hone Harawira, Annette Sykes and even Winston Peters are landing blow after blow on the Maori Party. It's almost cruel to watch, then again they brought it upon themselves.
Come Waitangi day, the government is going to find itself in a tight spot with Maori. S9 was a big issue for Maori and cuts at TPK will be another kick in the guts. Expect a lot of noise come Monday.