Time in Oamaru enlightening

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A stalwart member of the North Otago Maori community has been appointed to an expert advisory group tasked with overhauling the welfare system.

Trevor McGlinchey, who is the executive officer for Christian Social Services in Wellington, said his time in Oamaru shaped his approach to welfare and community.

“I moved here in my mid-20s. My children were young, and when we travelled through North Otago we came to Moeraki.

“I knew I was connected through my whakapapa, so we thought we’d spend a few days, but then we never really left.”

Mr McGlinchey founded Te Mahi o Waitaki Trust in 1986 after a spell at the Alliance meat works at Pukeuri.

“During that time, it was becoming more and more obvious to me that we needed to do more for our young people here in Oamaru.

“For us, it was about building community – thinking of ways to create hope and giving opportunities for people to transform themselves.”

The trust helped develop several community initiatives and social enterprises, which McGlinchey said was an essential component of welfare and wellbeing.

“Oamaru is kind of a hotbed of social enterprise. It’s really good to see people coming together as a community and creating not only employment but really positive things for our community.”

Mr McGlinchey said a massive overhaul of the current welfare system was necessary.

“In my early career here in Oamaru, we worked directly with people who were without employment and often needing government support to survive.

“I think that gives you some really good perspectives on how punitive approaches can actually undermine hope – and people’s ability to contribute and be part of this community is diminished.

“But if we have an approach that builds people’s sense of belonging and sense of inclusion, they will move forward in a positive way.”

Mr McGlinchey said he had many fond memories of Oamaru.

“This was where my children grew up. My children have really fond memories of Oamaru and longstanding relationships with many of the whanau here.

“We also have had an ongoing and deep association with Moeraki marae, so that is a very sustaining and strong relationship, as it’s whakapapa-based.”

Mr McGlinchey said he would like to spend more time in North Otago.

“This is the second time in a week that I’ve been here. I am actually here quite often at the marae events in Moeraki. But I’d always like to be here more.”

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the Welfare Expert Advisory Group would undertake a broad review of the welfare system and deliver it to the Government in February.