Nga hua pai ake mā te Iwi Māori: Creating better outcomes for Māori
2016 New Zealand Budget
By Leon WiJohn
Māori, with a younger population and an asset base yet to be fully unleashed, could become the rock of our economy in years to come. But, further investment is still required to grow our Māori asset base (both material assets and people) in support of New Zealand’s future economic goals.
Government agencies are certainly starting to progress initiatives aimed at lifting Māori wellness and supporting Māori business opportunities. As the government tweaks its finances, critics may argue that Budget 2016, while perhaps heading in the right direction for Māori, is hardly game changing in terms of making an immediate impact for those Māori struggling.
We would like to have seen even more commitment to the treaty process. Freeing up under-utilised assets set aside for treaty claims is vital for moving the Māori economy, and the New Zealand economy, forward. Even more important is freeing up the resources and mind space wasted on grievances by Māori and government when that same energy could be going into growing our people and our economy.
Nevertheless, since Budget 2015, there has been some progress towards closing out treaty claims. There have been two agreements in principle, five new deeds of settlement and seven settlements passed into law ($103 million in settlements passed into law compared to $500 million passed in the previous 2 years).
Māori Business and Asset Base
The Māori asset base is reported to be over $40 billion with almost two-thirds representing Māori involvement in a range of businesses. Although regional plans have not yet shown major progress, continued funding towards Te Ture Whenua Land Act reforms and initiatives for Māori land and business opportunities via TPK, MBIE, NZTE and Callaghan are positive. But the ability for Māori to access the funds is sometimes hampered compared to mainstream options.
Budget 2016 has allocated $17.8 million to create a new Māori Land Service, which will provide vital administrative services to Māori landowners and take over some functions of the Māori Land Court.
Budget 2016 introduces $1 million of annual operating funding for micro-financing of whānau. This funding is intended to assist micro-financing trials in high-need areas and increase low or no-interest financial relief for whānau and whānau-led small to medium enterprises.
Māori Wellbeing and Culture
The government announced $11.4 million of annual funding will be transferred from the Ministry of Social Development to support Whānau Ora. Although total health spending has increased by $400 million in Budget 2016, critics argue that in real terms ten DHB’s effectively face budget cuts. Regardless, an important issue to be addressed is that Māori are not accessing their fair share of health services and more support is being sought by Māori providers to bridge that gap.
A major lever in improving Māori wellbeing is assisting Māori into healthy accommodation. Budget 2016 sees $41.1 million of new funding targeted at emergency housing. Additionally, the Māori Housing Network is set to receive a $12.6 million boost over the next four years, taking its funding to $17.6 million per year.
In addition to more apprenticeship funding, $9.6 million over four years is earmarked for Māori and Pacifica trades training. This is intended to increase learners to 5,000 annually by 2019 (up from 1,200 in 2014).
Te reo Māori receives a boost, with $34.6 million of funding over the next four years to support the revitalisation of te reo Māori for all New Zealanders. This includes extra funding for Māori Television and funding to allow whānau, hapū and iwi to play a greater leadership role in the design and planning of initiatives.
What’s certain is that more and more Kiwis have expanded their knowledge and appreciation of issues facing Māori. Many of us are starting to understand that creating better outcomes for Māori is wholly consistent with creating better outcomes for everyone in our Aotearoa.