A well-meaning Budget 2019 offers almost half a billion for Māori

By Leo Horgan

At a glance: $480mil in targeted spending on Māori (including $398mil in ‘whānau wellbeing’ and $82mil in Māori/Crown relations and Treaty settlements). 

The Labour-led government promised Aotearoa a world-first ‘Wellbeing Budget’ which would move beyond economic indicators to include wider hauora aspects including mental health, living standards and a greater focus on Māori and Pasifika development.

There is plenty at stake for a government that is seeking to consolidate its image of compassionate governance in the face of withering attacks from the opposition over alleged mismanagement.

Most recently, the ‘leak’ of Budget 2019 information before Budget Day caused embarrassment which was compounded after the incident turned out to be a case of poor web security rather than criminal hacking.

Despite the setbacks, the government is keen to show that they can deliver a Wellbeing Budget rather than just a well-meaning one.  So, with over half a billion in targeted spending for Māori, have they delivered on their promise?

The Wellbeing Budget

“Growth alone does not lead to a great country. So it's time to focus on those things that do,” says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Budget 2019 focuses on five key areas, the majority of which have disproportionate significance for Māori.

“Our five Wellbeing Budget priorities show how we have broadened our definition of success for our country to one that incorporates not just the health of our finances, but also of our natural resources, people and communities.”

The five key areas include:

  • Supporting mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders, with a special focus on under 24-year-olds.
  • Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing, including addressing family violence.
  • Lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities.
  • Supporting a thriving nation in the digital age through innovation, social and economic opportunities.
  • Creating opportunities for productive businesses, regions, iwi and others to transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy.

Māori wellbeing

"For Māori and Pacific communities, the status quo does not work. The status quo does not mean equality for Māori, nor does it mean equality for Pacific peoples.”  - Budget 2019.

In addition to the range of initiatives which affect Māori more generally, the government has laid out a series of Māori and Pasifika-specific programmes which aim to tackle inequality in Aotearoa by focusing on “whānau, language, communities, economic and social wellbeing and the wellbeing of future generations”.

Whānau Ora: $81mil (operating)

The Wellbeing Budget commits $80 million over four years to expand the coverage and impact of Whānau Ora in addition to $1mil to research how a whānau-centred approach to primary healthcare can improve health outcomes for Māori and Pacific peoples.

Te Puni Kōkiri will partner with the Ministry of Health and Whānau Ora providers working in the health sector to design the initiative.

"My vision for Whānau Ora is that it supports whānau to achieve their aspirations, that it is appropriately supported across government agencies, and that whānau are able to play a key role in local decision making regarding Whānau Ora support," says Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare.

Supporting te reo Māori and communities: $208mil (operating) $2mil (capital)

Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta says the Crown is committed to ensuring that basic te reo is spoken by a million people in Aotearoa by 2040.

Budget 2019 Initiatives include resurrecting Te Kotahitanga, supporting the Māori Housing Network and revitalising marae as centres of community and te reo.

Almost $9.8mil over four years will fund Te Taura Whiri and support an increase in certification for te reo teachers.

Another $4mil will be used to sponsor events that contribute to promoting the status and use of te reo Māori. Te Puni Kōkiri will administer this fund.

$6mil will be invested in the Kāhui investment model run by Te Mātāwai. This investment will be used to support the Maihi Māori programme in the wider Māori community and also for policy and advice for Te Taura Whiri.

The money will be earmarked for eight iwi and Māori language clusters across the country.

Budget 2019 also provides $14mil of additional support for Te Mangai Paho to produce Māori programming and content.

Tackling reoffending – a kaupapa Māori approach: $95mil (operating) $3mil (capital)

The Wellbeing Budget is investing $98mil into a pathway for people to experience a kaupapa Māori and whānau-centred approach for all of their time with Corrections, from pre-sentence to reintegration and transition in their community.

The initiative includes $35mil of operating funding over four years to apply a Whānau Ora approach and will initially focus on Māori men under 30 years of age.

“This is a system change and a culture change for the Corrections system. That change starts today,” Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says.

“It’s about reducing reoffending so there are fewer victims of crime, building closer partnerships with Māori, and enabling us to keep delivering on our target to reduce the prison population by 30 percent as part of the Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata package.”

Unlocking whenua Māori: $56mil

The government says it will invest $56.1mil over four years in “unlocking the unused potential of Māori-owned land” through the implementation of the Whenua Māori Programme.

The investment will be used to roll out an advisory service for Māori landowners to utilise their land and resources and support whānau aspirations.  

Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta says "At present, the challenge of navigating the minefield of complex rules and regulations around the whenua means that there are significant barriers for Māori land owners.

"Current research shows that 600,000 hectares, nearly 40 per cent of Māori land, is underdeveloped. We simply have to do better for our tamariki," says Mahuta.

The Whenua Māori programme will initially focus on three regions: Te Tai Tokerau, Waikato-Waiariki and Tairāwhiti.

Improving Māori health outcomes:    

The Wellbeing Budget provides a variety of initiatives targeted toward improving Māori health outcomes.

These include a pre-budget announcement of $12mil in funding for rheumatic fever programmes to reduce the incidence rate among Māori and Pacific peoples and support better management of the illness.

Other targeted funding includes the Māori Health Workforce Development Package, which will receive $10mil operating funds to contribute to improving Māori health outcomes by increasing the Māori health workforce.

Additionally, the Māori Health Innovation Fund to Improve Māori Health Outcomes will receive $4mil to increase the number and range of Māori health providers.

This targeted funding represents a drop in the ocean of health-related funding which will disproportionately affect Māori.  These include the record $1.9 mental health package and a multi-year $1.7bil investment in hospitals, mental health and addiction facilities.

Māori/Crown relations and Treaty settlements: $82mil

A range of initiatives related to progressing Treaty settlements, maintaining Landbank properties and fulfilling Treaty obligations will receive operating funding to maintain and improve engagement between Māori and the Crown.

Te Ao Māori News will bring more news, reaction analysis on the 2019 Budget shortly.

(Note: the figures above do not represent the entirety of Budget 2019 spending on Māori-specific initiatives.)