Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson says he has reprioritised $5 million in his budget, money that was meant to be used for other purposes but has now been cancelled due to Covid-19.
“Clearly, it will be just sitting in the bank wasting time, just sitting in the bank and accumulating interest. Better to make it available for our people and so that's basically where the money's coming from.”
A $5 million boost is being offered to Māori and iwi organisations on the frontlines who are not connected to current support networks.
The new Covid-19 Whānau Recovery Fund will focus on the areas of Tāmaki Makaurau, Te Tai Tokerau, and Northern Waikato worst affected by the Covid-19 Alert level 4.
The money will be accessible to all Māori, marae, and iwi, Jackson says, but the focus will be on small businesses in Tāmaki Makaurau.
Jackson is also the chairman of Ngā Whare Wātea Marae, which looks after 14 additional marae. While not all of these marae are connected to the Whānau Ora process, which received over $20 million in financing last week, Jackson encourages them to apply.
“So this is some encouragement to some of those groups. Some of these whānau are not connected with marae, don't watch Māori TV, don't learn the reo, who are a bit whakamā. This pūtea is available for them,” he says.
Jackson says between $30-40 million has already been awarded to organisations like the Ministry of Social Development and Whānau Ora, but he is now focusing on others who may have lost out and areas or gaps that have been ignored.
“Our people are not just Māori providers, in fact, most Māori are outside the Māori provider area. We've had hundreds of thousandsof Māori without support. Let's be clear we are running two strategies: the mainstream one and a kaupapa Māori one.”
Although Jackson claims that ACT leader David Seymour is a "disgrace" for leaking Māori priority access codes, he maintains he doesn't detest David Seymour and he says, “He was a terrific advocate for some of the kaupapa that we started at Ngā Whare Wātea. And I think his work in terms of the End of Life bill was exceptional.”
“But here he is deliberately undermining a project that is trying to get more people, more Māori vaccinated, and it's all on the basis of getting more votes, so just disgraceful what he's done.”
Jackson says the government always seems to be blamed for lower rates of vaccination and agrees it can be at fault sometimes and could have done things better but he says, “We can’t let our people off the hook.”
“As Peeni Henare said, one of the hardest groups to move is young Māori people.”
Jackson claims he has spent his whole life attempting to persuade young Māori to get politicised and enrol on the Māori roll and that it has been a monumental effort for him.
“How do we motivate some of this crew, who just sit at home on the social media. They don't know what Māori TV is, don't know what Māori radio is, they don't have the reo, they don't know their whakapapa. It's a huge problem for us and I've been doing this all my working life,” he says.
“We’re meant to be leaders, we're going to say to you: 'Front up, get off that couch, get off that social media and get down and get vaccinated'.”