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The Maori Party is delighted to learn that progress has been made on another milestone of the Relationship and Confidence and Supply Agreement with the National Party.
“The relationship agreement we signed on 16 November set it out in black and white” said Mrs Turia. “Both parties agreed that the inequity in respect of the support that Parliament provides the very large electorates, needed to be addressed”.
”This has been a long-standing issue in front of the Parliament” said Mrs Turia. “As a member of the Parliamentary Services Commission, I recall many debates over the years urging the need to respond to the large geographical distances of some of the bigger electorates”.
“The Committee on the Third Triennial Review lead by John Goulter, investigated this issue and back in March 2007, recommended that constituency MPs with an electorate in excess of 20,000 square km be entitled to the services of an extra staff member”.
Former Speaker Margaret Wilson had approved that recommendation, and a working group comprising MPs from Labour (Tim Barnett), National (Anne Tolley) and Maori Party (Te Ururoa Flavell) had been working on the implementation.
“The Parliamentary Appropriations Report had noted there were significant ramifications for members in large electorates “ said Mr Flavell. “The logistical problems associated with getting around and meeting the people were significant, especially where distant locations can provide very real transport problems”.
“Most of the Maori electorates are huge” said Mrs Turia. “Compare Te Tai Tonga (161,000 sq km) and Epsom (23 sq km) or for that matter New Lynn which David Cunliffe serves (97sq km).
“The provision of an extra staff member in electorates over 20,000 sq km simply takes into account the enormous burden of travel around such significant land areas” said Mrs Turia.
“This is about MPs being accountable and accessible to the people. Many of the areas across our electorates are not serviced by airports and so it is nothing to have four or five hour journeys before we even reach some parts of our electorates”.
“We are really pleased that instead of this issue being dragged through yet another term of Parliament, that National is prepared to honour the terms of our coalition agreement, and make sure that electorates can be served well by electorate MPs”.
“For Labour to suggest this is ‘outrageous’ or ‘secret’ is bizarre when they have sat on the same committee I have, year in, year out, hearing about the inequities of this issue”.
“Even more bizarre, when two of their MPs, Nanaia Mahuta and Parekura Horomia, have also been saddled with the burden of travelling across large electorates, and will also receive the extra support”.
“I guess it shows what value Labour places in meeting the needs of the Maori electorates”.
“It is the right thing to do, the fair thing to do, by the people” said Mrs Turia. “People will be better served as a result of this initiative, and have greater access to the democratic process”.