The Minister for Māori Development has defended the drop in funding for Māori-specific initiatives in this year's Budget, saying these are "very, very tough times".
Willie Jackson Labour's Māori caucus were "all satisfied" with the $825 million 'Māori Budget', part of Finance Minister Grant Robertson's "no-frills" Budget, revealed on Thursday.
Last year, Māori initiatives received a boost of more than $1 billion.
"You must remember this is targeted funding - our people benefit from the overall Budget," Jackson said. "We've got the by Māori, for Māori [Budget], but let's not forget most Māori are not attached to a lot of our Māori organisations. There's going to be huge benefits right across the spectrum."
Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare said the $168m Whanau Ora funding boost in particular was "unprecedented".
Included in the 2023 Budget was:
- $200 million in extra funding to build and repair more homes through the Whai Kāinga Whai Oranga programme
- $34m over two years for Te Matatini
- $18m over four years to ensure "Matariki is funded into the future"
- $168.1m over four years for Whānau Ora "to ensure immediate needs of communities are met, while working alongside them to meet their long term aspirations"
- $132m increased funding for hauora providers, "including cheaper access to primary care, innovation funds for data, more rongoā services, and provide workforce development"
- $225m for Māori education, including $10m "to help develop the local content needed so schools and kura can work together with mana whenua"
- $51m over two years for Māori media
- $11.7m for the Te Ao Mārama programmes in the courts
- $8m boost for Māori tourism to "help the industry continue to recover from Covid-19 disruptions, withstand cost-of-living pressures and also meet increasing demand as international travel resumes"
"We continue to put our best foot forward for our whānau" Minister for Māori-Crown Relations Kelvin Davis said in a statement. "With six Māori ministers within Cabinet, we bring whānau voice to the decision-making table."
"Over the past few years Māori have responded to crises, from supporting each other through a global pandemic, to the response and recovery from the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle," Jackson said. "In these tough times economic resilience and security are more important than ever."
Minor parties react
While Te Pati Māori welcomed parts of the Budget - particularly the boost for Te Matatini, which co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said was "the exact amount" they wanted - she and her colleague Rawiri Waititi were left disappointed.
"It has clearly provided us evidence the focus is more on the middle to rich voter, and it hasn't addressed the real big elephant in the room - that we have long-term pain from poverty, entrenched poverty in Aotearoa," Ngarewa-Packer said.
Speaking to media, both co-leaders repeatedly questioned why Labour had not made moves to make food more affordable by removing GST and stopping the supermarket duopoly from hiking prices.
"They talk about a cost-of-living crisis - in actual fact, we don't have the privilege of a cost-of-living crisis because we've been living in poverty," Waititi said. "it's only until those well-to-do can't afford their boats, can't afford the secretary at home that there's now a cost-of-living crisis."
He said it was definitely a "no-frills" Budget, with little to be thrilled about for Māori.
"There are some good things in that Budget, but there are a whole lot of other things that could have made life a lot easier for our people, and those things could happen right now."
Te Pati Māori also bemoaned the lack of a capital gains tax in Robertson's package.
The Green Party's Māori caucus said they welcomed "much-needed investment", but there was "room for improvement".
"We don't need a 'no-frills Budget', we need a fairer tax system," list MP Teanau Tuiono said. "The money is already there. An excess profits tax and a wealth tax where everyone pays their fair share would allow us to redistribute the money from the wealthiest few to benefit us all."
The Greens also criticised the Budget's failure to "adequately address the severity of the climate crisis". About $800 million was cut from the Climate Emergency Response Fund due to a collapse in the price of carbon in the emissions trading scheme.