Māori Caucus to focus on targeted funds in 2019

By Talisa Kupenga

Labour's Māori caucus co-chairs Willie Jackson and Meka Whaitiri dispute some critics' opinions that the caucus did not bring enough outcomes for Māori in the new Government's first year.

The pair says 2018 brought many results for Māori, and the caucus aims to build on that momentum.

Whaitiri says, “I look at the year and think we’ve done well, it’s only the beginning. There’s much more to do but over all a pass mark.”

Jackson agrees and says there were many achievements this year that have helped people with their day to day needs.

“The real big achievements were for everyday outcomes, housing, warming homes, the families package. Those were the big outcomes for Māori.”

Some critics expected more for Māori given that the new Government has the highest number of Māori in-house in history and Labour’s clean sweep of the Māori seats.

“I got sick of the bias type coverage from some of the Māori commentators who would say Māori didn’t get anything, says Jackson.

"Māori are part of the New Zealand population. Most of our people are not with Māori organisations. Most of them don’t speak Māori so we have to get to them.”

The incident between Whaitiri and her former staffer in Gisborne in August led to Whaitiri being stripped of her Ministerial role.

Jackson says the Māori Caucus reviewed her role as co-chair and decided she should retain that position.

Whaitiri says, "I fronted. I fronted this place, I stood the questions and like I said lessons were learnt and continue to be learned. There is so much more that we have to focus on and put our focus on and put our attention on and that's what the Māori Caucus is doing and I'm doing."

Next year’s focus will be to secure funding, Jackson says.

"Universal and targeted funding. That is a big area for us to work on, both areas. This year the big one was universal funding but next year it is right for us to focus on Māori programmes, like Whānau Ora and broadcasting."

Whaitiri says, "Our colleagues are well aware of this from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Finance.

“Our expectation is to continue along that track but actually to have a bit more targeted funding to address all those critics out there that said 13 Māori are impotent because we are working really hard for our people."

Jackson says he returned to politics to get more funds, resources and outcomes for Te Ao Māori and that's the key focus of the caucus for the coming years.