Budget 2020: Kotahitanga

How Crown-Iwi partnerships can lead COVID-19 recovery

Iwi and the Crown are partners under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. By working together, the Crown and Iwi can accelerate New Zealand’s COVID-19 recovery.

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This growing population represents a huge opportunity for New Zealand in terms of consumption, capital and labour - an opportunity that is, as of yet, largely untapped (the average hourly wage for Māori is $26 compared to Pākehā at $31 and there are much higher rates of unemployment). However, in a post COVID-19 world, we have the chance to create an economy that includes everyone of all ethnicities and cultures – with positive effects that are felt by all.

This hasn’t always been the case. Following the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918, Māori were largely left out of the recovery process, this happened again following the Great Depression of the 1930’s – and the effects of that on both economic and social wellbeing are still being felt to this day. Now, however, circumstances have changed. The Crown’s respect for Te Tiriti has grown, as has its partnerships with Iwi. The re-emergence of an economically mature Māoridom (which consistently contributes 5% of GDP) means the Crown can and should partner with Iwi in all regions to accelerate the whole of New Zealand’s economic recovery. Today’s $900 million investment to support Māori will have most impact and value to our nation if the rebuild includes Māori and Iwi as partners to the Crown in the recovery.

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Respond: Driving social and regional initiatives

The Government has already partnered with Māori in its social and regional initiatives as part of the COVID-19 respond phase, where Iwi form natural co-leaders. For example, Whānau Ora (a cross-government programme led by the Ministry of Health, Te Puni Kōkiri and the Ministry of Social Development) partnered with local Iwi in its COVID-19 response – ensuring tests for COVID-19 were carried out for Māori across New Zealand, as well as delivering 120,000 hygiene and sanitation packs to those whānau most in need. Whanau Ora receives an additional $136 million of funding in Budget 2020.

Iwi hold an inherent mandate to support, nurture and grow the wellbeing of New Zealand. Māori values of manaakitanga (care and compassion), kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and sense of whānau are all essential to support societies most vulnerable in times of crisis. These bonds to longevity and community are also important guides for a sustainable and equitable economic recovery from COVID-19.

Recover: Targeted social procurement

The Government has included Māori in its response to COVID-19, but how can it partner with Iwi in the recovery phase?

Social procurement can play a key role. This is the practice of specifically targeting certain groups in the procurement process to create benefits beyond the delivery of the goods and services themselves. Targeting indigenous communities in this way has already seen success in Australia, Canada and the US.

The establishment of a $50 million Māori trades training fund as part of a wider $200 million Māori Employment Package. The Budget commits the Government to work in partnership with Iwi and Māori to help grow job opportunities in the regions. $40 million is allocated to help tackle housing challenges through the creation of a Māori and Iwi Housing Initiative (MIHI).

There is some social procurement already in place in New Zealand (for example, Auckland Council has announced goals for quality employment for targeted populations); however, we are yet to see a really concerted effort made by Government. With infrastructure and construction key beneficiaries in the budget, and with a long list of shovel-ready projects already put forward by Iwi, engaging Māori-owned businesses in this way will have a huge impact on the country’s economic recovery, while also reducing inequities.

Likewise, using the Provincial Growth Fund to invest in regional projects such as water, power, farming, housing and other infrastructure - all of which Iwi are uniquely placed to co-lead - will be key to reigniting the regions.

Thrive: Rebuilding our economy together

This Government has the opportunity to use the 2020 Budget to create true partnerships with Iwi valuable to all of Aotearoa. This year’s pandemic is unlike any we have seen before. While its health and economic impacts on Aotearoa New Zealand cannot be understated, the crisis also brings an opportunity for the Government to recognise Iwi as regionally and nationally significant powerhouses that, thanks to their inherent values, are uniquely placed to lead a sustainable and regional economic recovery.

Budget 2020 recognises that to thrive, education is important. $400 million has been allocated to Māori education; including $200 million of funding for Te Kōhanga Reo.

COVID-19 has changed everything. We have an opportunity to start from scratch, to rebuild from the ground up – to create an economy that includes everyone, for the benefit of all. This starts with (and will depend on) the Government growing current Iwi partnerships, embracing the notion of kotahitanga (unity and collective action) and entering into positive equitable relationships with Māori. Doing so will help New Zealand not just to recover from COVID-19, but to thrive.

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