By Eruera Rerekura, Political Reporter – Te Karere |

During her first speech as prime minister on Waitangi Day at Waitangi this year, Jacinda Ardern promised that her Labour-led government would be kind, caring and compassionate – especially toward society’s most vulnerable – the down-and-out, the homeless and those struggling to make ends meet.

Ms Ardern has made it her mission that Budget 2018 would be about taking action on child poverty with major investments in health, education, housing and justice and rebuilding critical public services.

“This coalition government is committed to genuinely tackling child poverty so that New Zealand becomes the best place in the world to be a child,” Ms Ardern said.

Labour’s five Māori cabinet ministers Kelvin Davis, Nanaia Mahuta, Peeni Henare, Willie Jackson and Meka Whaitiri all stand behind that – including the party’s Māori caucus.

They all believe that this year’s budget will deliver for Māori families.

“The Prime Minister wants this Government to bring back manaakitanga. Budget 2018 realises this vision by building a strong foundation for the future of all Māori,” Mr Davis said.

“Nine years of neglect by the previous National Government across housing, education, and healthcare have hurt our people.”

Mr Davies said that the Families Package was key to addressing the needs of whānau who are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living.

A billion dollars to keep whānau buoyed

“The Families Package now being implemented contributes $1.2 billion over four years to help whānau through accommodation supplements, winter energy payments, boosts to Working for Families, and the Best Start payment,” Mr Davis said.

Ms Mahuta said it’s estimated that 181,000 Māori children living in impoverished families will benefit from the billion-dollar investment.

Minister of Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta said there would be $37 million of new funding for Vote Māori Development that recognises that whānau are key to improving outcomes for Māori.

This investment includes operating funding of:

·         $15.0 million in 2018/19 for papakāinga housing

·         $7.0 million in 2018/19 for the whenua Māori programme to support and unlock opportunities in whenua Māori for whānau

·         $15.0 million set aside over four years for rangatahi Māori to move from learning to earning, including Māori Warden initiatives

Besides the big focus on tamariki, Budget 2018 has no intentions of leaving out kuia and kaumatua – especially elderly Māori who care for their mokopuna.

The budget will provide $104.9 million operating finds over four years for Clothing Allowance for children supported by the Orphans Allowance and Unsupported Child’s Benefit.

“About half of these carers are Māori and our approach puts whānau at the centre,” Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare said.

Oranga Tamariki will receive $2.2 million for one year for a trial to improve the Family Group Conference Process for tamariki Māori.

A healthy whānau dwells in a health whare

“Budget 2018 will have a huge impact on Māori and their housing,” Meka Whaitiri said.

According to government figures about 42,000 children go to hospital every year with infections and respiratory diseases that are largely the result of living in cold, damp mouldy homes with 1,600 elderly dying prematurely each winter.

The Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP said that it’s estimated that more than $250 million from the Families Package changes in accommodation supplement will benefit Māori over the next four years.

“Much of the new money for transitional housing and the Housing First Programme will improve the quality of life for our tamariki and whānau,” Ms Whaitiri said.

Grants delivered from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority will provide $142.5 million to insulate homes.

The Government also has an ambitious plan of building 6,400 state houses over the next four years – 1,600 a year.

Education, rangatahi, and strengthening Te Reo

Supporting Māori students to succeed as Māori and investing to deliver te reo Māori in schools are key to lifting the achievement of our tamariki and rangatahi, Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis said.

New operating funding of $1.0 million to lift Māori academic achievement will be invested to investigate how Māori students can be supported to achieve as Māori in English language medium settings.

A special programme Te Kawa Matakura is intended to develop Māoridom’s future leaders. It will receive $690,000 new operational funding this year and $2.1 million in 2019/20 for secondary school students who exhibit excellence in te reo Māori education.

Kelvin Davis envisages that 10 young women and 10 young men will be selected from various regions who are expected to become iwi leaders.

Labour’s Māori caucus is pushing for Te Reo to implemented in the school curriculum by 2021 and realise however that schools need more capacity to achieve this.

New operational funding of $1.1 million in 2017/18, plus $11.4 million operational funding will be invested in Te Ahu o te reo Māori over the next three years to increase capacity across the system for delivering quality te reo Māori education.

“Budget 2018 delivers real opportunities for our rangatahi to build a bright future through learning ad earning,” Employment Minister Willie Jackson said.

The budget sets aside $15.0 million of new operational funding over the next four years to enhance education outcomes for rangatahi. The funding will focus on young people who aren’t in education, employment or training (NEETs) and $1 million of that will support Māori warden initiatives.

It follows the He Poutama Rangatahi announcement in March which will connect NEETs to skills training and employment pathways in Te Tai Tokerau, Eastern Bay of Plenty, Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said that centre-based early child education (ECE) services and kōhanga reo will receive a $104.8 million increase in funding.

Overall budget investments Māori specific over the next five years

·         Crown/Māori relations - $3.0 million over the next five years

·         Enhancing Education and Employment Outcomes for rangatahi - $15 million

·         Family Group Conferences for tamariki Māori - $2.2 million

·         Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act - $11.5 million

·         Papakāinga development - $15 million

·         Relativity Mechanism Dispute - $2.3 million

·         Whenua Māori Reforms - $7 million