Budget 2020: $900m package for Māori 'unprecedented', minister says

5:20 pm on 15 May 2020

The Budget's $900 million Māori package is unprecedented in previous governments, says Employment Minister Willie Jackson.

Willie Jackson, Minister of Employment

Willie Jackson said the Budget's Māori package is "unprecedented in terms of previous governments". Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

But Māori economic leaders say the long-term gains for Māori employment and development fall outside of that package.

Federation of Māori Authorities chair Traci Houpapa said the Budget is spectacular in its commitment and quantum with a focus on jobs and work for all New Zealanders with a considerable sum for Māori.

But she said there was an opportunity for government to specifically focus on a response and investment package for Māori which is what the announcement is lacking.

"I think that it is fair to say that iwi and Māori leaders have petitioned and expected government to work alongside us in this post-Covid Aotearoa planning stage we think it is critical to the future and sustainability to New Zealand."

Gains for Māori extend beyond Māori package

The targeted Māori funding includes $400m on Māori education, a $137m boost to Whānau Ora, and $200m on a Māori Employment Package targeted at the regions.

Ngāti Porou Holding Company and Eastland Group limited chair Matanuku Mahuika said there is more in the Budget that is relevant to Māori.

"A lot of that $900 million is about education and welfare types of payments," he said.

"Those are important things to have at a time like this, but those are not the things that will in the long-term shift the dial for Māori when it comes to development and also having the ability to not be taking handouts from the government, but to choose our own destiny."

He said the investment in environmental jobs and infrastructure are going to be key for Māori employment.

"The infrastructure spending generally is spending which, if it is targeted into the regions and into areas that can support Māori and the Māori economy, will be a good thing."

But Mahuika said better engagement with Māori is necessary in order to be at the centre of the long-term recovery, which has huge potential.

Lack of clear direction for Māori criticised

Chris Karamea Insley, the chair of Te Taumata and the chief executive of Te Arawa Fisheries, has described the Budget as a missed opportunity for the government to meaningfully engage with Māori.

Before Covid-19 the Māori economy was worth more than $50 billion.

But many Māori businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic with 17,000 Māori expected to lose their jobs in the tourism sector.

Karamea Insley told Morning Report he's disappointed in the lack of clear direction in the Budget.

He said the spending for Māori should be more targeted.

"There's a lack of clear narrative or strategy around what the end goal is. It's not visionary. Instead it's a random splash of money and race back to what I think of as business as usual.

"It's a missed opportunity ... about government seeing Māori as a genuine partner to sit in and actually work this through."

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