21 May 2021

Budget 2021: Targeted funding boosts health and housing for Māori

9:28 am on 21 May 2021

Despite a massive increase in targeted funding for Māori in Budget 2021, Whānau Ora Commissioning agencies say they are missing out in favour of a boost to health and housing expenditure.

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Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare and Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

A total of $1.1 billion in funding has been allocated specifically to Māori initiatives in this year's Budget, with half of it going towards infrastructure for new whare to be built by iwi and hapū ($380 million) and the setting up of the new Māori Health Authority ($98m).

The authority will get a further $127m for the initial programmes it will fund for healthcare and illness prevention directly to Māori.

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson said never before had there been this level of targeted funding and the Māori Labour caucus could not be happier.

"Health and housing have been the priorities and we've seen the results."

Flanked by his Māori caucus members, Jackson said it was a "milestone" and at one point pulled Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta forward to comment on her time in Parliament when "Māori and Labour didn't always get along".

That is a reference to Labour's scrubbing of all Māori targeted funding back in the early 2000s under the leadership of Helen Clark.

Jackson said yesterday's Budget was a response to the calls from iwi leaders for a desperately needed cash injection into Māori health and housing.

However, it comes at the expense of Whānau Ora and the more than 100,000 people who rely on it for social and health services.

"While we continue to applaud the work that Whānau Ora continue to do, the two pressing issues in front of our whānau are clearly housing and health, and today's budget addresses that," Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare said.

"An unhealthy family still needs the health system, a whānau with no house still needs the housing system - if we build Whānau Ora out on its own, it will find itself in the silo that we're trying to avoid here."

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Debbie Ngārewa-Packer. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Te Paati Māori co-leader Debbie Ngārewa-Packer was not buying it.

"I'm shocked that Minister Henare has used that as an excuse, this is a model of whānau care that is working, that is getting into the homes, they are using it - he mooted it two weeks ago, promoted it himself - and it's inexcusable to say they're not investing in a success model.

"That's really concerned us out of everything, the signal that they will not give the same degree of support to the models that have been working."

The three Whānau Ora commissioning agencies received $138m in last year's Budget split between them, with $41m of that funding still left.

But it is unsure that will cover the demand, with Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu (the South Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency) already inundated with emergency grant requests for kai and firewood, which has increased by 40 percent in the last month.

North Island Commissioning Agency chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said it had been let down.

"You can't tell people you're doing a great job and you're not going to ensure they're well-resourced to do further work ... so I was disappointed."

Māori primary healthcare advisor Lance Norman said it did not make sense for the government to invest in health and housing without putting money into Whānau Ora.

"It actually brings health, social services, education, employment together as a connection but if you don't invest in that and you've invested in one part of our economy, how are you going to connect our communities with the other part of our economies that they need."

Norman welcomed the $98m in funding to set up the Māori Health Authority as heading in the right way direction, but said it still came up short.

"We still are funding significant deficits for DHBs and small amounts of money for Māori so I like the Māori Health Authority but I don't like the proportionality of that split.

"You're looking at 0.3 percent of the Budget to do some pretty amazing, significant health changes and reforms."

As one of the biggest champions for a Māori health authority, Raukawa-Tait said the funding it had received "was a start".

Primary healthcare service National Hauora Coalition chief executive Simon Royal said it had come a long way since the Waitangi Tribunal claim about the dire health outcomes for Māori that was lodged 16 years ago.

"This is long overdue ... the indigenous people of this country have long footed the bill for the establishment of the economy of New Zealand and suffered poorly as a result - economically, socially, in terms of our health outcomes - so this is the beginning of the turning of the curve."

He said the $126m for hauora Māori services would "go a long way" towards restoring years of disinvestment.

University of Auckland political scientist Lara Greaves told Morning Report the budget allocation for Māori was a "a great step in the right direction".

There had not really been designated Māori funding allocated in Budgets during the past 10 to 20 years, she said.

She said it was never enough, but there were also some interesting possible mechanisms to deliver policies to Māori.

Meanwhile, there is some hope for the 11,000 Māori on the social housing waitlist.

While the government unveiled most of its Budget housing policies back in March, Māori were told they would have to wait for their funding spend.

Te Puea Marae chairperson Hurimoana Dennis, who helped house hundreds of homeless whānau in Māngere over the last five years, has welcomed the $350m for infrastructure for Māori housing developments.

"It's going to go a long way particularly towards the regional areas because there's plenty of land but the infrastructure around that land is just not there which is the biggest cost and mamae (hurt)".

On top of that, there is $380m to pay for 1000 new homes and repair 700 dilapidated homes owned by Māori.

Whare will be built with iwi and hapū in regions such as the Far North, East Coast and the Hawke's Bay.

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