Government cuts will hit Pasifika communities hard – union

The government’s “brutal” spending cuts that will see the size of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples slashed by 40 percent will hit Pasifika communities hard, the Public Service Association says.

The ministry has confirmed it is proposing to reduce in size by 63 roles, 31 of which are vacant. The union put the current staffing level at 156.

PSA national secretary Duane Leo said cuts would have far reaching consequences for the health and wellbeing of Pasifika families in New Zealand and across the Pacific.

“The 40 percent reduction is going to have a huge impact on a small ministry serving a population of about 400,000 Pasifika people in New Zealand, many of whom have close links across the Pacific,” he said.

“This is a community that needs dedicated government support. We know that Pasifka families are more likely to live in overcrowded, unhealthy housing, and that their families are more likely to struggle financially than other New Zealanders. The Pasifika population has also grown rapidly – by 43 percent between 2006 and 2018, twice the rate of New Zealand’s population.”

He said the ministry has been active in Pasifika communities supporting housing development, the creation of training and employment opportunities, supporting Pasifika languages, cultures and identities, and developing social enterprises.

“This work is needed now more than ever. Pasifika communities are grappling with the high cost of living and are more at risk than others from the downturn in the employment market,” he said.

“The ministry carries out a very important role by being a bridge between the government and Pasifika communities, and particularly hard to reach groups within those communities. The value of this often-underrated work was highlighted during the Covid pandemic response.”

Leo said the cuts showed the “low level of importance” the government gave to the Pasifika community.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t surprising given a senior Cabinet member joked before the election about blowing the ministry up.

“Once again, we are seeing the cold, hard reality of the choice this government has made – giving $3 billion in tax cuts to landlords, is somehow deemed more important, than supporting important and at times vulnerable communities.”

Ministry pausing recruitment during consultation

A spokesperson from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples said it had been asked to identify savings to contribute towards the government’s fiscal sustainability goals, and had been given an indicative target to identify 7.5 percent of savings, due to its growth in size since 2017.

“We are currently consulting with staff on these proposed changes to our structure until 5 April 2024 and will be offering the option of voluntary redundancy. Recruitment is paused while this process is underway.”

Final decisions would be made at the end of April and would be implemented for 1 July, 2024, the spokesperson said.

“We will be working to ensure both our staff and Pacific communities are kept well-informed about any changes at that time.”

“We remain committed to championing the voices of Pacific communities, and maintaining programmes that help to empower Pacific peoples to thrive is our priority. We are confident that the proposed changes to our structure will enable us to remain closely connected to and support Pacific communities throughout the country.”

Green Party Pacific Peoples spokesperson Teanau Tuiono said the cuts would have a devasating effect on Pacific whānau who were more likely to be locked into low wage work, live in cold homes, and die prematurely from preventable illness.

“This is a result of the systems that have failed to support them for generations,” Tuiono said.

“The Ministry for Pacific Peoples was established as an opportunity to right these wrongs, to address the needs of Pacific whānau and provide guidance and advice to the government through a Pacific lens, supported and enabled by Pacific staff.”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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