Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Poata-Smith, E. S. 2008, ''Closing the gaps?'', in N. Lunt, M. O''Brien & R. S. Stephens (eds), New Zealand: New Welfare, Cengage Learning, South Melbourne, Victoria. pp. 101-110.


Explanations for the origins of inequality and the patterns of social, economic and political exclusionthat exist along ethnic lines have become central features in social policy debates on a global scale. Thischapter explores how Labour-led governments since 1999 have attempted to address the inequalitiesthat exist between Maori and non-Maori within the particular context of significant reforms to socialsecurity.'Disparities: 'capacity building: and 'closing the gaps' are all well-worn phrases that have featuredprominently in recent public policy discourse in New Zealand. These policies have generatedcontroversial public debates about the strategies implemented to address these inequalities. The highlypoliticised nature of the debates about ethnic inequality in New Zealand society reflects the fact that theinterrelationship between ethnicity and social inequality has been, and remains, a deeply contentiousquestion. It also highlights the diverging and sometimes overlapping agendas of the state and iwi,hapu, and urban Maori communities and the contested nature of their understandings of thosedisparities.To complicate matters, Maori continue to embrace a diverse range of conflicting political ideologiesthat are informed by radically different assumptions about the causes of Maori inequality in widerSociety and, in turn, different sets of strategies for ameliorating and transcending that inequality. Farfrom being the subject of political unanimity then, tino rangatiratanga is a fundamentally contestedconcept within Maori communities (Poata-Smith 1996).