Entrenchment Mechanisms Absent In Periodic Reporting


Fourth periodic report submitted by the New Zealand Government under articles 16 and 17 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

He pukenga wai, He huihuinga tangata, He huihuinga tangata, He purenga Kōrero

Where there is a fountain of water, people will gather, where there is a gathering of people, oratory will flow


1. Te Puna Ora o Mataatua Charitable Trust (TPOOM) is a Kaupapa Māori  health and social service provider based in Whakatane, Eastern Bay of Plenty, in the Mataatua tribal region.  Established in 1991 by tribal elders/leaders of nine Mataatua tribes Te Puna Ora o Mataatua actively promotes health and wellbeing for all Māori and non-Māori living and working in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

2. It has a staff of 30 FTE and over 200 support workers.

3. TPOOM services include Primary Healthcare Medical GP Clinic, Homebased Support and ACC services, Social Housing, Whānau Ora Kaiārahi, Childrens Team Lead Professionals, Mama (Mother) and Pēpe (Baby), Kaumātua (Elderly) Services and Health Promotion. TPOOM also has a Driving Academy and the Health and Population Research Institute.

4. TPOOM can be found online at [www.tpoom.co.nz].

5. TPOOM submission on the Fourth periodic report submitted by the New Zealand Government under articles 16 and 17 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Covenant) received on 17 August 2017 and distributed on 6 October 2017 (the New Zealand Government’s Report / the Report).

6. This submission focuses on health, social, well-being, whānau (family), tamariki (children); rangatahi (young people), issues that align with Te Puna Ora o Mataatua’s services and priorities).

7. In preparing this Submission we reviewed the New Zealand Government’s Report, the List of Issues provided by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the List of Issues),  the Core Documents  and other reports that have been prepared by Civil Society Organisations and National Human Rights Institutions in advance of the up-coming 63rd session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Committee).

The New Zealand Government’s Report – Summary

8. The New Zealand Government’s Report covers the period from January 2011 – May 2017.  The Report is high-level and is compartmentalised to specifically respond to the List of Issues and those articles in the Covenant that have been identified by the Committee.  Although a necessary requirement of responding to the Committee’s questions, it is not presented in a complete or holistic way and therefore silos several issues that (particularly for Māori) are interconnected and all affect overall well-being.

9. This section of the Submission summarises the three sections to the Report namely issues of particular relevance, Implementation of the Covenant and Good practices.

Issues of particular relevance

10. The Report begins by responding to the issues of particular relevance in the List of Issues.  The relevant question in the List of Issues for TPOOM is:

Please provide an assessment of how the different policies and programmes in the State party for the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by disadvantaged and marginalized groups, in particular Māori, Pasifika and children and young people below 24 years of age, have addressed structural inequalities in health and education, and to what extent they have addressed structural factors. Please also indicate the remaining obstacles and how the implementation of the recommendations contained in the 2015 report of the New Zealand Productivity Commission on social services would address them.

11. Of particular relevance to TPOOM are the responses under the following headings: Health, Social Services, Children, Engaging Priority Families, Supported Playgroups:

(a) Health:   The Report notes the “large disparities in health status between population groups with “Māori children, Pasifika children, and children from low-income families experiencing poorer health outcomes than the overall child population.”   The Report notes that the Government is addressing this issue “by developing policies, structural arrangements and consultation mechanisms which recognize the disparities in health status that currently exist within these groups.”   The following are reported as examples of these:

(i) Well child/Tamariki Ora universal services:  The Report notes the Government has provided funding to lift the overall Well Child/Tamariki Ora enrolment rate in each region.  The Report notes further that there were significant improvements in 2015 of timeliness and completion of appointments for Māori children, Pasifika children and highly deprived children.  The Government has initiated a review of the programmes content, timing and delivery modes to “support expected gains in improvement rates”.

(ii) Childhood immunisation: The Report notes the increasing rates of immunisation within Māori and Pacific families; National coverage at 12 months is between 94-95%; Māori coverage at 12 months is 93-94%; Pacific and Asian coverage is 97-98%.  However, the Report also notes that there are still challenges with ensuring immunisations are given on time.  The Report notes Māori children and those living in the most deprived communicates were affected most in terms of immunisation targets.  The Report notes an outreach programme was developed to address this.

(iii) Youth Health:  The Report notes the Youth Mental Health Project as “a cross-government project to improve services or youth aged 12 to 19 years with, or at risk of, developing mild to moderate mental health problems.”   The Report notes Superu’s evaluation that found that “the YMHP was a worthwhile financial investment, generating both public and private benefits.”

(b) Social Services:  The Report notes that Māori and those living in high deprivation areas disproportionality experience poorer social outcomes (access to health services, education and housing opportunities are noted).  The Report notes the Productivity Commission’s finding that “there are positive attributes in the social services system, but there are also weaknesses.”   The Productivity Commission made 61 recommendations to improve social services.  The Report highlights the recommendation to improve “the way that services are commissioned, increasing client empowerment in what and how services are accessed, improving the use of data and innovation, and improving system stewardship.”    The Report emphasizes the Productivity Commission’s finding that “there needs to be a better way to improve outcomes of the most disadvantaged New Zealanders (those who have complex needs and low capacity to co-ordinate and access services).

The majority of this section of the Report concerns New Zealand’s measures to reduce violence against all persons.  The Report notes this includes primary prevention, interventions and services to help people to get away from violent relationships and change the behavior of perpetrators, Family violence legislative reforms, services to help victims of violence (including sexual violence) to recover, measures to reduce assaults on children and measures to combat online offending (such as the Harmful Digital Communications Act.   The Report notes the Ministerial Group established in late 2014 to systematically improve the family violence system in New Zealand.  The Report notes further that new approaches and pilots are being tested and further data will be available following their conclusion.   The Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill and the new elder abuse intervention service are explicitly noted as measures.   The Report also notes the decrease in intimate partner violence but that reported violent crime has climbed.

(c) Children:    The Report focuses on the Modernising Child, Youth and Family Expert Panel’s Final Report Investing in New Zealand’s Children and their Families (7 April 2016) and notes the Expert Panel’s finding that there is a need to address the over-representation of Māori in the system and notes further the potential causes of this over-representation that includes “higher levels of deprivation in Māori families, conscious and unconscious bias in the system, and a lack of strong, culturally appropriate models for strengthening families and child development.”   Oranga Tamariki is noted as part of the Government’s response to the Expert Panel’s findings along with legislative changes to the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989.

(d) Engaging Priority Families:    The Report notes this initiative as providing “intensive support to families with three and four, year old children in target communities to enroll in ECE, sustain participation, and support successful transition to school.”

(e) Supported Playgroups:   The Report notes that the Government contracts nine Supported Playgroups in targeted areas with low participation in ECE, and has 265 children enrolled.

12. The Government also reports in this section, in response to the List of Issues, on the Constitutional Review Process, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the role of the Treaty of Waitangi.   In short, the Government notes its constitutional review panel and their final report in December 2013 and the emphasis the Panel placed on the “need to continue to conversation about the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in our constitution”.   The Report notes that education about the Treaty “is a formal part of the New Zealand Curriculum and the national conversation about its place in our constitutional arrangements in ongoing.”

Implementation of the Covenant

13. The Report addresses all of those Covenant articles that are specifically noted in the List of Issues.

Article 1(2) – Right to freely dispose of natural wealth and resources

14. The Committee asked the Government to:

Please update the Committee on the implementation of the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal to ensure the free prior and informed consent of Māori on any decisions regarding their lands, territories, waters and maritime areas, as well as on its recommendation on the Māori’s right to conserve, promote and develop their own culture, language and cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and cultural expressions, and their the right to protect their intellectual property.

[Emphasis added – noting TPOOM’s priority areas]

15. The Report notes the Waitangi Tribunal’s 2011 report Ko Aotearoa Tēnei that reported on New Zealand’s law and policy affecting Māori traditional knowledge, culture and identity (also referred to as the Wai 262 report).  The Report notes further that the Crown’s “engagement with Wai 262 issues is located within the broader context of on-going work to strengthen Crown-Māori relationships.”

16. The Report notes the further following matters to address the Committee’s question:

(a) In April 2016 Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori / Māori Language Act 2016 was exacted.  The purpose of the Act is to “affirm the status of the Māori language as the indigenous language of New Zealand, as a taonga of iwi and Māori, as a language valued by the nation and as an official language of New Zealand”.

(b) Whare Taonga – the Regional Museum Policy Fund which assists iwi actively planning iwi museums in the future.

(c) Newly found taonga tuturu – the process under the Protected Objects Act 1975 for iwi to seek a determination on ownership of those taonga by the Māori Land Court (and for the Government to own them in the interim).

Article 2(1) – Obligation to take steps to the maximum of available resources

17. The Committee asked the Government to:

Please provide information on the public consolidated budget for sectors relevant to the Covenant rights, particularly with regard to employment, social security, health and education, indicating the share of the total public budget over the past five years. Please also provide information on additional spending for new policies to address inequalities.

18. The Report notes the budget for sectors relevant to employment, social security, health and education.   Of particular note, the Health and Social Development (selected) budgets have increased at a similar rate between 2011 and 2016 (noting that the selected Social Development Vote increase is slightly higher).

19. The Report notes the following new initiatives to address inequalities:

(a) The social investment package in Budget 2016 which included additional support for vulnerable children.

(b) The increasing relevant Appropriations over the last five years.

Article 2(2) – Non-discrimination

20. The Committee asked the Government to:

Please provide information and statistical data on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by persons with disabilities.

21. The Report notes the 2013 Disability Survey – and the finding that “…on average, disabled people experience poorer economic and social outcomes across their life course than non-disabled people.”   The Report notes the following matters as measures to address this issue:

(a) The New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016-2026:  The Report notes this Strategy was co-designed by disabled people and government officials.  The Report notes further that an Outcomes Framework was to be developed in 2017.

(b) Disability Action Plan:  The Plan sets priorities for action that promote disabled people’s participation and contribution in society.  The Plan has four shared results:

(i) Increase employment and economic opportunities;

(ii) Transform the disability support system;

(iii) Ensure personal safety;

(iv) Promote access in the community.

Article 9 – Right to social security

22. The Committee asked the Government to:

17. Please update the Committee on measures taken to ensure that ongoing welfare reforms do not further disadvantage the most marginalized individuals and groups, as well as on social assistance measures in place for those no longer entitled to insurance-linked benefits.

18. Please indicate to what extent the protection of the right to social security, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the best interests of the child are taken into account in decision-making processes regarding benefit sanctions under the Social Security Act 1964.

23. The Report notes that New Zealand does not have insurance-linked benefits but welfare benefits based on “need-based eligibility criteria that are not linked to insurance contributions.”   The Report notes that “[P]articipation in employment offers the best opportunity to increase family income to the benefit of parents and children.”   The focus of the Government’s answer to the Committee’s question 17 is focused on the importance of employment and assisting those who can work to find work in the context of welfare reform.

24. For those with children, the Report notes that 50% protection applies across sanction levels.  The Report notes further that there are review of decision options for those accessing welfare.

Article 11 – Right to an adequate standard of living

25. The Committee asked the Government to:

19. Please update the Committee on the poverty threshold applied in the State party. Please also provide updated statistical data on poverty, disaggregated by age group, ethnicity, household size and family status. Please provide information on obstacles to reducing child poverty in the State party.

20. Please provide information on measures taken to respond to the reported increase in the number of families resorting to food banks.

21. Please provide updated information and disaggregated statistical data on the gaps in the realization of the right to adequate housing in the State party in terms of affordability, habitability and security of tenure, and on the existing challenges to decrease those gaps, in particular with reference to the long waiting list for social housing.

Poverty threshold

26. The Report notes that New Zealand does not have an official poverty measure.   The Report notes the following measures that assist the Government to “understand what is happening at different levels of disadvantage”:

(a) BHC income (income before deducting housing costs) – the Report notes the limitation of this measure particularly when considering accommodation costs.

(b) AHC income (income after deducting housing costs) – the Report notes that this is a “very useful measure for understanding the real-life differences in consumption possibilities for households when looking at income alone.”   The Report also notes that the Government has developed a Housing Affordability Measure.

(c) MWI (Material Wellbeing Index) – the Report notes that the MWI is made up of 24 items that given direct information on the day-to-day actual living conditions that households experience.  The Report confirms, at Figure 23, that the hardship rates for Māori and Pacific children are much higher than those European children.

27. The Report also records obstacles to reducing child poverty commenting that the issue is “dynamic and the causes are multiple and varied.”   The Report identifies the following initiatives the Government is progressing:

(a) Promoting economic growth through sound fiscal and macro-economic management;

(b) Welfare reform, aimed at reducing long-term benefit dependence and the negative outcomes associated with that dependence;

(c) Increasing investment to reduce hardship in families with children — including increases to benefits, family tax credits and childcare assistance — alongside increased work expectations for beneficiary parents;

(d) Taking an investment approach, which means investing time and resources where they will be most effective in reducing long-term benefit receipt;

(e) Education reforms such as national standards aimed at addressing New Zealand’s tail of poor educational achievement;

(f) Free doctors’ visits for children under 13 years of age, home insulation subsidies and breakfast in schools;

(g) The Whānau Ora initiative which recognises the need for a holistic view of the issues affecting individuals and their wider families.

28. The Report also notes the $790 million package announced in 2015 to support children living in hardship.


29. The Report notes the eligibility for social housing; for those at risk (priority A) or in serious housing need (priority B).  Māori applicants were amongst the highest applicants for Social Housing (42.1% in June 2016).  The Social Allocation System is the assessment tool used to process applications for social housing.

30. The Report notes the Social Housing Reform Programme and that it will “increase the diversity and supply of social housing in New Zealand and encourage more innovation and responsiveness to tenants.”  The Report also notes the $144.5 million towards social housing supply in Auckland and $354 million towards emergency housing in 2016.

31. The Report states housing affordability as a significant issue for many New Zealand families.  Of particular relevance to TPOOM the Report notes the Māori Housing Strategy released in 2014.  The Māori Housing Network (part of Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Māori Development) was launched in October 2015 to help more whānau access safe, secure and healthy homes.   The Report records that at 30 April 2017 it has contributed to the costs of 63 new affordable rental homes owned by Māori collectives, funded housing repair projects for 379 whānau, and funded infrastructure development for 176 homes.  The Māori Housing Network also funds the improvement of housing for whānau to help houses meet minimum standards of habitability – supporting 379 homes generally in rural and remote locations.

32. The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 was amended in 2016 and increased the length of time available to tenants to contest an alleged retaliatory notice at the Tenancy Tribunal.  Issuing a retaliatory notice is also now an unlawful act.

Article 12 – Right to physical and mental health

33. The Committee asked the Government to:

22. Please provide information on the impact of measures taken to ensure the right to physical and mental health of, and improved health outcomes for, Māori and Pasifika people.

34. The Report comments on the following measures to address the Committee’s question 22:

(a) Ala Mo’ui: Pathways to Pacific Health and Wellbeing 2014-2018 – Four year plan to deliver high-quality health services that meet the needs of Pasifika.  The Report notes the increased access rates to mental health and other services.

(b) Zero Fees for Under-13s – From 1 July 2015, all children aged under 13 who are eligible for publicly funded health services became eligible for free general practice visits and exemption from the standard $5 prescription charge.  The Report notes the data that more Māori and Pacific children are being seen by their enrolled GP.

(c) The Childhood Obesity programme – The Report summarises the programme and notes the target that by December 2017, 95% of obese children identified in the B4 School Check programme will be offered a referral to a specialist health professional.

(d) The Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme – The Report notes there has been no change in hospital admissions of rheumatic fever for Pacific peoples from 2012.  The Report notes further that the programme has implemented a range of initiatives including Pacifica and Māori engagement strategies for awareness raising.

(e) The use of seclusion for Māori in specialist mental health services – The Report notes the seclusion reduction policy and reports further that between 2007-2015 the number of people secluded who identify as Māori decreased by 15%.

Good practices

35. The Committee also asked the Government to:

Please provide information on good practices in policy formulation and implementation developed by the State party during the reporting period that have effectively contributed to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights of marginalized and disadvantaged individuals and groups. Please indicate how the Committee’s previous concluding observations (E/C.12/NZL/CO/3) have been taken into account in developing such practices.

36. Of particular relevance to TPOOM’s work, the Report notes the following as examples of good practices:

(a) Human Rights Amendment Act 2016 – The amendment established a Commissioner responsible for disability rights. The amendment also gives the Commission greater flexibility to address emerging human rights issues by enabling the Chief Human Rights Commissioner to establish new portfolio responsibilities.

(b) Disability Data and Evidence Working Group – The Working Group has been developing a Disability Data and Evidence Plan. It is now proposed that the development of the Outcomes Framework for the New Zealand Disability Strategy and the Disability Data and Evidence Plan be combined in a single programme of work to be completed by the end of 2017.

(c) Official Development Assistance – The Report notes the increase in Vote for this assistance.

(d) International Human Rights Framework – The Report notes that the Government:

(i) has acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities therefore allowing external review of enjoyment and exercise of economic social and cultural rights;

(ii) has begun the process to establish a position on signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure

(e) Right to sanitation – The Report notes that the Government established a sewerage subsidy scheme in 2002 to assist small to medium communities’ upgrade or build sewage treatment and disposal systems, particularly in rural, disadvantaged areas (and provides examples).

The New Zealand Government’s Report–Significant matters

37. In our view there are a number of discrepancies in the Government’s Report and, in parts, the Report fails to adequately address the Committee’s question.

38. In summary:

(a) All articles of the Covenant have not been reported on. The Report is limited to those articles that have been raised through the List of Issues.  Therefore, not all articles have been addressed in the Report, for example the following articles:

(i) Article 1(1) – All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

(ii) Article 1(3) – The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.

(iii) Article 10 – The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that:

• The widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family, which is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, particularly for its establishment and while it is responsible for the care and education of dependent children. Marriage must be entered into with the free consent of the intending spouses.

• Special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after childbirth. During such period working mothers should be accorded paid leave or leave with adequate social security benefits.

• Special measures of protection and assistance should be taken on behalf of all children and young persons without any discrimination for reasons of parentage or other conditions. Children and young persons should be protected from economic and social exploitation. Their employment in work harmful to their morals or health or dangerous to life or likely to hamper their normal development should be punishable by law. States should also set age limits below which the paid employment of child labour should be prohibited and punishable by law.

(b) Whānau Ora. It is noted only once in the Report as an example of an initiative to address child poverty recognizing the “need for a holistic view of the issues affecting individuals and their wider families”.   Whanau Ora is much more than a measure to reduce child poverty; “Whānau Ora puts whānau and families in control of the services they need to work together, build on their strengths and achieve their aspirations.”  Whanau Ora also “recognises the collective strength and capability of whānau to achieve better outcomes in areas such as health, education, housing, employment and income levels.”  It is a Māori approach to improving the well-being of the Māori community. The Government’s use of Whānau Ora in the limited child poverty example is concerning and suggests that the Government’s understanding of the relevance of Whānau Ora to a range of kaupapa (issues) continues to be siloed and marginalised.

(c) Youth Mental Health Project. The Report refers briefly to Superu’s funding and comments that the Project “was a worthwhile financial investment, generating both public and private benefits”.  Superu also noted a range of other “key areas to look at for making a bigger impact on youth wellbeing” namely:

(i) Improving connectedness and integration at local service delivery level;

(ii) Encouraging more youth-friendly and co-located services, particularly in schools;

(iii) Sorting out bottlenecks at the points of transition for youth referred to other services;

(iv) Expanding YMHP initiatives to all youth aged 12-19, given that everyone in this group is potentially vulnerable to mental health issues;

(v) Targeting specific youth populations that could be better served, including youth in Canterbury, youth identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or inter-sex (LGBTI), youth with disabilities, youth experiencing unexpected transitions or potentially traumatic events, and youth not in school, particularly those not in employment, education or training (NEET)

(vi) Further promoting existing resources and support services to youth, their families, whānau and communities

(vii) Addressing ongoing stigma around mental health.

We support these recommendations. We also note targeted and cultural responsive approaches are required for local communities. Behavioural and mental interventions require local approaches, resources and facilities – local solutions to local problems.

(d) United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. There is no reference to the Committee on the Rights of the Child Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of New Zealand 21 October 2016.   There were a range of recommendations included in this Report that could have been noted in the Report (particularly if the Government is committed to the recommendations in the Report).  The Report refers to Māori and Pacific children or Māori and Pacific people, this “bundling” serves to undermine the rights of ethnic groups and Māori to be acknowledged and be counted as a unique culture with their own identity.

(e) Suicide. There is no mention in the Report of New Zealand’s suicide rates; particularly amongst Māori.  This could have been addressed in the Government’s response to the Committee’s question on article 12 – right to physical and mental health.  Instead, the only Māori specific strategy noted in the Government’s response is the seclusion reduction policy.  Māori suicide, especially amongst teenagers is the highest in the world per capita and there remains an overwhelming lack of acknowledge and resources by successive governments to address this issue.

(f) Abuse of Māori children in State care. The Report does not address abuse of Māori in State care.  This is an acknowledged issue and the Report does not explicitly address it noting only that the Government has introduced major State care reforms to “improve the long-term outcomes for New Zealand’s most vulnerable children, such as the establishment of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki from 1 April 2017.”  The Vulnerable Children (Oranga Tamariki) is operationally a failed model. It is an interagency-provider collaboration without any specific appropriation to fund its interventions.  We note the successful change in legislation to prioritise the placement of Māori tamariki with Māori whānau/hapū/Iwi which TPOOM raised with the Parliamentary Select Committee when the Bill was introduced to the House.

(g) United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). There is no reference to UNDRIP in the Report.  Of particular relevance to TPOOM’s priorities, the following matters have direct linkage with the UNDRIP articles:</p

Related Pānui

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This is what Te Puna Ora o Mataatua got up to in April

Māehe Recap

This is what Te Puna Ora o Mataatua got up to in March
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