Māori driver licence programme questioned

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The government will spend $4 million on a programme to help young Māori get their driver licences and into employment. But the initiative has received some criticism by Hobson's Pledge saying it shouldn't be limited to just Māori.

The Passport to Life - Taiohi Ararau will assist taiohi aged 15 to 24 to get help securing identity documents and IRD numbers. Hobsons Pledge is concerned that the initiative shows preferential treatment for Māori.

Spokesperson for Hobsons Pledge, Casey Costello says, “It's about need. It's about where you're sitting in the scale and if you qualify because of those circumstances then you should qualify because of those circumstances, not because of what your ancestry is.”

Māori Development Te Ururoa Flavell says Māori have the highest need for support in getting identity documents.

“86,000 youth throughout the country are unemployed, that's the 'needs'. Māori make up 27,000 of that. Therefore, it's a major issue. We're saying yes due to the fact that the majority are Māori the funding should be allocated accordingly, although it's also open to others to pursue this initiative.”

The $4 million would be part of a wider government plan to dedicate a total of $12 million to support young people who were not in education, employment or training.

Casey Costello says, “This opportunity exists for a race, a culture, an ethnicity, whatever you want to call it, but not everybody. So isn't that separatism? Isn't that saying if it's not available to everybody, isn't that what separatism is?”

Te Ururoa Flavell says, “I've heard the pleas of some of Iwi who say Māori kids are driving around unlicensed, they're penalised by the police and taken to court where they can't pay the fines and in the end they're in trouble. Therefore we're saying this initiative should focus on that group, however it should be expanded so that they can determine ways in which to enter educational and employment programs.”

The Minister of Māori Development says further details about the package will be announced the coming weeks.