24 May 2012

What the Budget means for Maori

10:38 pm on 24 May 2012

Young Maori in education will benefit from this year's Budget, but smokers will have to pay more for cigarettes or tobacco.

Some $19.087 million has been allocated to Maori language early childhood education services to be spread over four years.

The spending is aimed at getting more tamariki into Maori pre-schools - including kohanga reo services.

The Ministry of Education says initiatives will be developed and delivered through iwi and other partners.

There is also an increase in Equity Funding - money to support and help children achieve educational success, particularly Maori and Pasifika students.

That initiative will receive nearly $50 million over four years and be spent across the entire early childhood education sector.

The Budget speech by Finance Minister Bill English on Thursday also confirmed earlier announcements that there would be spending in several other areas.

These include money to tackle rheumatic fever and funding aimed at reducing reoffending through more drug, alcohol and rehabilitation treatment.

The Government says 230,000 homes will be insulated, an increase of 41,000 properties, through its Heat Smart programme.

This is a policy that has been driven by the Maori and Green parties through their agreements with National.

Smokers targeted

Maori will be hit hard by a sharp increase in tobacco excise tax. For the next four years, the tax will increase by 10% per year, beginning on 1 January 2013.

An average pack of 20 cigarettes will cost more than $20 by 2016.

Marewa Glover, director for the Centre for Tobacco Control Research, says Maori will find that difficult as currently 45% of its population smokes.

'No surprises' for Te Puni Kokiri

A financial consultancy firm says there are no surprises in the Ministry of Maori Affairs budget.

Hamiora Bowkett, a director with PricewaterhouseCoopers' consulting team, says Te Puni Kokiri is not immune from Government orders that all departments must tighten their belts.

Mr Bowkett says year-on-year, there is a slight dip in funding from $210 million to $208 million.

That small reduction is expected, because spending on the Whanau Ora concept has passed its peak, he says.