Empowerment and partnership – both concepts come into the considerations of Ardern’s Treaty-sensitive government

Buzz from the Beehive

“Empowerment” is a bit like “Treaty partnership”. Just a decade or so ago you would rarely have heard of it.  

Since then, its use has burgeoned and its meaning – like the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi’s three simple clauses – has evolved to be applied to whatever the government wants to validate. 

In a book titled Empowerment: The History of a Key Concept in Contemporary Development Discourse, Anne-Emmanuelle Calvès writes:

Since the late 1970s, the term “empowerment” has been liberally applied by academics and aid workers in the English-speaking world, including in social services, social psychology, public health, adult literacy and community development (Simon 1994).

Today the word is even more in vogue and has even entered the worlds of politics and business. From popular psychology to self-help, the infatuation with empowerment in the English-speaking world appears boundless: in 1997 there was even a book published in the United States on “self-empowerment” for dogs (Wise 2005).

This infatuation no doubt has infected the mindset of members of the Ardern ministerial team, because we noted this headline on one of the latest press statements posted on the Beehive website – 

Cadetships programme continues to empower whānau Māori

Since July 2022, more than 610 cadets across 35 programmes have been approved, up from the 499 cadets approved by this time in the last financial year.

The press statement comes from Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson, fresh from having fomented a furore (while being questioned about the merging of TVNZ and Radio NZ)  when he chided the interviewer:

“Sadly, you’re doing such a negative interview today – I’m very disappointed in you. But you’re hammering every part of this entity that’s all about our public identity. It’s about expression in terms of the New Zealand voice. Don’t you want to hear that?”     

This suggests he is not a keen champion of editorial independence.   

But his purpose today was to draw attention to a cadetships programme for Maori, which he did by reeling off data to show that since July 2022, more than 610 cadets across 35 programmes have been approved, up from the 499 cadets approved by this time “in the last financial year” (the comparable period of 2021-22, presumably).  

He trundled out further figures to show more than 1,300 cadets will be supported this financial year, building on the more than 5,000 cadets and 400 employers who have already participated in the Cadetships programme. About a third of cadets are under 25 and about half are women. 

He recalled that earlier this year, the Government announced a Budget 22 investment into the Cadetship programme of an additional $25 million over the next four years. This also built on Labour’s manifesto commitment to provide “free access” to all apprenticeships and to many trades training courses.

“Free  access” means taxpayers will pick up the tab.

Jackson proceeded to say businesses across a range of industries support the Cadetships programme,

… including employers that support whānau to learn about horticulture and agriculture with a Te Ao Māori lens; including a Māori-owned financial technology company, and a traffic management company, and an organisation that supports Māori into technology careers.

He then said: 

Over the last few years, more than three-quarters of employers are either fully or partly Māori owned, however all employers are invited to participate in the programme.


We suspect he meant to say more than three-quarters of employers involved in the cadetship programme are either fully or partly Māori owned…

But wait.  There’s more:

Another training initiative, the Government’s Apprenticeship Boost programme, has seen Māori make up 19 per cent of its 50,000 apprenticeships.

And what is the cost to taxpayers?

Point of Order found only these figures with dollar signs in the press statement:

Māori and Iwi increasingly contribute and play a major role in the economy across many sectors including primary, natural resources, enterprise, and tourism. In the past 20 years the Māori economy has grown from about $16 billion to $70 billion and with it steadily growing at five per cent per annum, it is expected to reach $100 billion in assets by 2030.

While Willie Jackson was banging on about empowerment, Peeni Henare was bringing “partnership” into considerations and (not shy of dollar signs) he reminded his audience of a $7.1 million  handout for a housing project:

19 new townhouses for whānau in need in Lower Hutt

Associate Minister of Housing (Māori Housing) Peeni Henare today visited Kahungunu Whānau Services and their newly purchased 19 townhouses in Taita, Lower Hutt.

Tātai Mokopuna Holdings Limited (the asset holding company of Kahungunu Whānau Services) had been granted a $7.1 million Māori housing funding boost through the Government’s Te Kahui Māori Housing programme to buy 19 townhouses in Lower Hutt, to be managed as Public Housing.

The funding also enables Kahungunu Whānau Services to work towards establishing a Community Housing Provider to manage public homes under the Income Related Rents Scheme.

Henare said: 

“I am proud that the partnership that has been built between Kahungunu Whānau Services and the Crown is delivering real housing benefits on the ground to the people that need the support the most.”

In 2021, the Government invested $730 million into Māori Housing to work with iwi and hāpu to build new homes for whānau.   

“The opening of these townhouses is another step towards the shared aspirations and goals we all have for the future of Māori housing and for the whānau of Kahungunu Whānau Services,” Peeni Henare said.

Meanwhile other ministers were reporting –  

New Zealanders will be able to enjoy spray-free strawberries grown through a hi-tech new system almost all year round through a Government-backed pilot project based in Foxton.

The government has announced a new set of rules to ensure proper and humane treatment of people detained by Police, Defence forces, or other New Zealand agencies during offshore deployments.

The Government will take action to increase competition in the residential building supplies sector following the release of the Commerce Commission’s market study final report.

A Royal Commission to prepare New Zealand for future pandemics through lessons learned from COVID-19 has been announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today.

Associate Foreign Affairs Minister Aupito William Sio travels to Indonesia this week to represent Aotearoa New Zealand at the Indonesia Pacific Forum for Development and the 15th Bali Democracy Forum.

Changes to partner work visas that were set to come into effect in December 2022 have been deferred to April 2023, Immigration Minister Michael Wood has announced today.



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