'It's extremely disappointing, you know?' - Labour MPs under fire over lack of targeted spending for Maori

Selling the budget to Maori is a challenge for any government.

Labour says its big ticket items will be good for Maori, like the families package it announced earlier, as well as cheaper doctors' visits and building more houses.

"We made a commitment during the campaign that we would focus on housing, health and education. We ran a mainstream campaign during the election. We didn't talk about foreshore and seabed," Labour MP Willie Jackson said.

"Mainstreaming Maori issues has shown over the decades it doesn’t work," Maori Party president Che Wilson said.

Whanau Ora providers, which work with disadvantaged Maori families, are unhappy Labour hasn't delivered an election promise of $20 million in extra funding.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, chief executive of the Te Pou Matakana Whanau Ora commissioning agency, said it's been a long-standing struggle to convince the government to provide more funding for mainstream Maori issues.

"We're in here for the long haul and that's been the problem - trying to convince the government, the previous government and this government that the needs are great. They didn't just happen overnight and they will not be solved overnight as well," Ms Raukawa-Tait said.

Targeted Maori spending for things like broadcasting, community and economic development are also under scrutiny.

The Maori development budget is $316 million this year but that's dropped from under National and the Maori Party when it was $328 million.

The drop in funding has led critics to say the Labour Maori caucus hasn't done well enough.

"It's extremely disappointing, you know? We had two MPs in parliament from the Maori Party and we were still able to leverage and you've got 13 Maori MPs in Labour and it looks like there's no leverage," Mr Wilson said.

However, Labour rejects the Maori Party leader’s claims.

"What I’d say to the Maori Party is turituri - we've got $1.2 billion in the families package alone. That will go to Maori - that's huge in anyone's books," Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis said.

Critics says ground's been lost on targeted funding, but Labour says what's good for everyone is good for Maori. Source: 1 NEWS



Housing Minister Phil Twyford takes aim at Treasury, labels advisers as 'kids' in Kiwibuild stoush

A major stoush has broken out between the Housing Minister and Treasury with Phil Twyford slamming some of those working at the Government's lead economic and financial adviser as "kids."

That's after Treasury downgraded its forecast over how much extra housing investment Kiwibuild will deliver to the economy.

Builders are under the pump and construction is being delayed on some new houses by at least a year.

"We're really busy as an industry and just forever I get reports of builders wanting more and more people. And they're just not available, so we're in a pretty chronic position currently," Grant Florence of the NZ Certified Builders Association told 1 NEWS.

It has prompted Treasury to downgrade its forecasts for the Government's Kiwibuild programme. 

"I just think some of these kids in Treasury are just fresh out of university and they're completely disconnected from reality," Mr Twyford said.

National's housing spokesperson Judith Collins said her experience is "you should always listen to Treasury".

"They're not always going to be exactly the way they see things, but ultimately they're looking at it from a dispassionate point of view and independent point of view," she said.

Before Christmas, Treasury said Kiwibuild would result in $5.4 billion of extra residential investment by 2022. 

Now it has slashed that number in half, saying some of that investment won't happen as quickly. 

"One of the mistakes I think Treasury have made is that they've assumed that the investment has to be made before the houses are built," Mr Twyford said.

The Government has also promised to build 1600 state houses a year.

Currently there are almost 8000 households in need of state housing and National says it would have built more.

"National went into the last election promising over 6,000 state houses over the next three years. So we were promising on 2000 a year," Ms Collins said.

Mr Twyford said: "The opposition had nine years and they allowed the housing crisis to spin out of control."

The Government is promising there's no change in its plan to build more houses, and there will still be 100,000 affordable homes in a decade.

The Housing Minister is unhappy Treasury downgraded its forecast over how much extra housing investment Kiwibuild will deliver to the economy. Source: 1 NEWS

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Ministry reviews decision not to extend student allowance for unemployed man told he has to quit night class or face benefit cut

The Ministry of Social Development is urgently reviewing a decision not to grant an extension of a student allowance to a man who says he's been told by StudyLink he must quit a free night class or face a benefit cut.

The unemployed man who has depression and asked to remain anonymous, was the subject of an RNZ story which was also carried by 1 NEWS NOW on Thursday.

The man and his partner, who are parents to an eight-year-old, are taking business classes at Te Wananga O Aotearoa in Otara, South Auckland.

Work and Income had told his Auckland Action Against Poverty advocate that he was not entitled to the student allowance because, at 55, he was too old and had studied in the past.

StudyLink had said that if he and his partner both want to access full benefits, one of them will have to give up their studies. 

The man has chosen to stay on the course but isn't getting any support from the government, meaning his family is surviving off his partner's student allowance and the families tax credit - around $340 a week.

Ministry of Social Development Auckland Regional Commissioner Mark Goldsmith says they understand the man's situation and the difficulty he is facing. 

"We are doing all we can to support him and his family as we know he is feeling stressed by the situation. This is a complex case, it is the first example of its type that we have seen and so it will take some time to resolve it," Mr Goldsmith said in a statement to 1 NEWS NOW this afternoon. 

He said it has been a policy for some time that someone cannot receive a student allowance and Work and Income support at the same time and this makes it difficult to assist the man. 

The man has asked the ministry to review its decision not to grant him an extension of his student allowance, Mr Goldsmith said. He has used his 120-week entitlement on previous study. 

"We are treating his request with urgency. We need to deal with (the man's) request before we can resolve his case," Mr Goldsmith said.

He said the ministry cares about the man's wellbeing and has contacted him today "to let him know we are actively looking at options for him".

The man said if the couple were allowed to retain their benefits while studying they would have an extra couple of hundred dollars a week.