Māori candidates debate drugs and mental health issues

By Taiha Molyneux

The mana of the Māori seats and the right way to help Māori families affected by drugs and mental health issues were all out before Māori standing in general seats and on party lists last night.

Even though Pita Paraone did his best to defend his leader Winston Peters' call for a referendum on the future of the Māori seats, there was swift response from Mika Haka of the Opportunities Party. 

Mika Haka says, "We will not negotiate with any party that wants to do any referendum or anything with the Māori seats. Goodness gracious, they got the language, they got the water and got the land. What else do they want, what else do you want? Nope, not happening."

Pita Paraone responded by saying, "Mika, after the election, you won't need to worry cause you won't be there." 

Mika replied, "You don't know that and you're not in either."

Willie Jackson also called out candidates standing anywhere who were claiming to take with them the tino rangatiratanga of Māori to parliament. 

"You go down there, you bow to the speaker and these staunch radicals around here will curtsy to the speaker. There is nothing tino rangatiratanga or kaupapa Māori about parliament and some of these people around here got to get their heads around it."

While they all agreed that drugs and mental health were major issues, they all had slightly different ideas as to how to combat the issues. 

Carrie Stoddart-Smith from the Māori Party says, "We also want to increase the number of respite beds that are available for addicts and invest in more kaupapa Māori initiatives."

"We need to strengthen those agencies that are responsible for protecting our boarders," says Pita Paraone.

According to Denise Roche, "We need to have access to wrap around services, education and actually just decriminalise it so people can be treated for their health."  

However, Willie Jackson says, "The reality is that we need to work with our people at the coalface."