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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 11:10 GMT
Maori pregnancy row erupts in NZ
Tariana Turia, Maori Party co-leader
Tariana Turia said her remarks were taken out of context
A senior Maori leader has been criticised in New Zealand for comments that a government minister said could encourage teenage pregnancy.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said earlier this week that Maori teenage pregnancy was not a problem.

Race Relations Minister Trevor Mallard has criticised the remarks as being both "irresponsible" and "extreme".

Pregnancy among 13 to 17-year-old Maori is 26 per 1000, more than five times that of New Zealand's non-Maori.

But the Maori population's growth rate has been slowing in recent years, prompting some Maori to worry.

In a speech on Maori reproductive health on Monday, Ms Turia said she was "intolerant of the excessive focus on controlling our fertility".

"Maybe one of our policy goals in the Maori Party should be to go forth and multiply," she was quoted as saying, citing falling population growth rate figures.

But on Friday Mr Mallard accused Ms Turia of encouraging teenagers to get pregnant.

"It is not appropriate to encourage 13-year-olds to have babies. They are just about babies themselves," Mr Mallard told News Zealand's news agency, NZPA. "Most New Zealanders would say this is irresponsible."

He said that while population replacement was indeed a matter for discussion, the idea of shortening the generation gap was not a good one if it meant more young teenagers getting pregnant.

"It's the sort of attitude that, quite frankly, is extremist," he said.

Ms Turia hit back saying: "I did not cast any judgement on whether 13-year-old girls should or should not get pregnant, these are Mr Mallard's words."

"My view is that if a person of any age becomes pregnant, we should celebrate and support the wonder of that new life, rather than paint it as a picture of doom and gloom, as a problem," she said, according to a Maori Party statement.


SEE ALSO:
New Zealand embroiled in race row
27 Oct 04  |  Crossing Continents
Country profile: New Zealand
11 Sep 04  |  Country profiles


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