Ko Ganesh Ahirao tōku ingoa.
I am a first-generation New Zealander, I acknowledge the people of the past, the present and the future, and I pay my respects to Māori as tangata whenua of Aotearoa.
The role of the Productivity Commission Te Kōmihana Whai Hua o Aotearoa is to advise governments on how to improve productivity to support the overall wellbeing of all New Zealanders. Consistent with this purpose, productivity follows from mauri ora: healthy people, supported by a healthy culture, living within a healthy environment.
As Chair of the Commission, it is with a mixture of frustration and excitement that I present the final report of our inquiry into breaking the cycle of persistent disadvantage.
Our report is titled “A fair chance for all”, and I believe most – if not all – New Zealanders would agree with such an aspiration. But, disturbingly, it remains an illusory concept for many in Aotearoa New Zealand. Irrespective of definitions, the numbers of people experiencing persistent
disadvantage and not getting anywhere near a fair chance are sobering. As a result, we all lose out as our collective potential is eroded.
Equally, if not more disturbingly is a collective reluctance to shift the dial. A seemingly resigned acceptance of this situation starkly risks further undermining the cohesion and trust – the social contract – on which our communities and businesses rely.
I do not hide my frustration that, despite their best intentions, successive Governments have failed to address persistent disadvantage. Well-meaning interventions and programmes, ranging from ad hoc and piecemeal to paternalistic directives with implied finger-pointing and victim-blaming, have not succeeded. This stain stubbornly remains on our nation and our communities.
As proposed at the start of this inquiry, we have drawn on He Ara Waiora, a tikanga framework built on te ao Māori knowledge and based on evidence about wellbeing that applies to everyone. We acknowledge that mātauranga Māori belongs to Māori, and we have sought feedback and guidance on its proposed application throughout this inquiry.
My excitement emanates from this inquiry’s findings pointing to many small successes. There are indeed clear examples of how people, families, whānau and communities have overcome disadvantage. There are also clear examples of how people, organisations, and government agencies have worked with families and whānau to help them achieve their aspirations, and to
address the underlying inequities that create disadvantage. My challenge to governments of today and tomorrow is to build on these examples to create a future where all New Zealanders can lead better lives.
As a country, we must stop doing and supporting things that we know do not work and accept the challenge to try things that might. We need to get better at preventing and anticipating disadvantage and build a learning system that enables us to test, learn from and adapt our responses according to changes in our understanding of the challenges people face, and of their circumstances.
There is no single approach that works to overcome persistent disadvantage. But there are common themes: locally led, whānau-centred, centrally enabled approaches; trusted relationships – holding each other to account – between funders, providers, and the people and their communities; and learning from the voices of people and their communities.
In short, people, families and whānau thrive when they have access to resources, are empowered to grow and develop on their own terms and feel a sense of belonging within their communities. A cross-party, long-term commitment to partnership and adequately resourcing efforts to break the cycle of persistent disadvantage is needed to ensure a fair chance for all.
Finally, and in all humbleness, I would like to thank the many people and organisations who helped inform this inquiry. Your experiences, knowledge, insights and evidence have been invaluable
in shaping our findings and recommendations, which will help create foundations for a future without disadvantage.
Nāku, i roto i ngā mihi, nā
Dr Ganesh Nana
Chair, Te Kōmihana Whai Hua o Aotearoa | New Zealand Productivity Commission