Budget 2018: Minister hits back over Māori criticisms

12:59 pm on 21 May 2018

Employment minister Willie Jackson has blasted critics of the 2018 Budget who say it failed to deliver for Māori.

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Willie Jackson Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

The criticism was prompted by the Labour-led coalition not following through on a promise to boost Whānau Ora funding by $20 million, and a $3m cut to Te Puni Kokiri's baseline funding each year for the next four years.

At an event hosted by Ara - an Auckland Airport employment and training provider for South Aucklanders - Mr Jackson said the Budget put more money in Māori pockets than any budget in the history of New Zealand politics.

The $265m going toward Māori families as a result of the government's families package would result in an average $75 more per week in their households, he said.

"I've heard quite a bit of misinformed and ignorant commentary over the Māori contribution to the budget - ignorant and plain stupid, actually, at times."

The Labour Party currently has 13 Māori MPs and holds all seven Māori seats.

North Island Whānau Ora commissioning agency Te Pou Matakana chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said Māori MPs had not delivered on their promise to support whānau.

Māori Party president Che Wilson said his party, which currently had no sitting MPs, was concerned the Labour-led government was mainstreaming Māori issues.

However, Mr Jackson said there were many Māori who were not signed up to specific Māori health and social providers.

"We have to look after the greater [Māori] population - and the greater population are not involved in some of the things we want them to all be involved in," he said.

"And if it does mean some of our providers have to wait a year or so, then so be it - we have to make our commitment to the kaupapa too."

The government was committed to Whānau Ora, Māori health providers and Māori radio and television, he said.

"Te ao Māori is more than just targeted funding - [but] targeted funding is important... [and] we're absolutely committed to giving to our Māori organisations over the next two years."

Widespread disappointment among Māori

But some Māori have described yesterday's announcements as a "kick in the guts" and a Budget of broken promises for the country's most vulnerable.

Carmen Manuel, who works for a Whānau Ora provider in South Auckland, said it was heartbreaking to find out the budget did not include any additional funding for the health and social service provider.

"I was excited to see what would come of the budget, but to see that was really heartbreaking. I'm not sure about everyone else but I'm just speaking from experience of working with our people here in South Auckland and what's this gonna do for us in moving forward.

"I'm still trying to comprehend it."

Jackie Hohaia works with children with disabilities in South Auckland and said there wasn't enough targeted funding for Māori, especially for rangatahi.

"It's very broad, it's not really targeted - only in areas they think there's a shortage of teachers.

"I thought there would be more emphasis on certain areas for our kids like behaviour... for us we're looking to improve academic writing for our students, Māori in particular."

Māori lawyer and former Mana Party candidate Annette Sykes said the budget didn't go far enough for Māori.

"Where are the rehabilitation centres? Where are the temporary shelters? Where are those that are suffering the most from the mental health system and the criminal justice system to get immediate assistance in this housing crisis?

"It seems like just a drop in the pond for the kinds of spend that is required to ensure parity of access of outcome of service and parity of equity of outcome for Māori that are suffering in health, education and housing."

Ms Sykes's message to Labour's Māori MP's was to step up and exercise power to ensure Māori were better-off.

"You need to use your own power, the power that the Māori people have mandated you with to assert that power to ensure Māori under achievements and barriers to access to general services is alleviated.

"The jury is out on it at the moment but it won't be out next year if Māori MPs don't deliver."

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