Māori Party wants quarter of all recovery and housing spending on Māori

The Māori Party wants a quarter of all Government spending on the recovery from COVID-19 to be funnelled into projects led by Māori and involve Māori-led businesses. 

The policy called Whānau First was revealed Saturday morning as the party kicks off its 2020 election campaign.

The Māori Party was booted out of Parliament in 2017, failing to win a seat. It's since replaced its leadership and is currently helmed by John Tamihere and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted major racism and inequity that impacts on wellbeing and the ability to feed our whānau," said Tamihere, a former Labour MP who ran for the Auckland mayoralty last year but was beaten by incumbent Phil Goff in a landslide.

"The evidence for this across the whole of Government is best identified by our unemployment status in our own country. We cannot tolerate a post-COVID environment that makes our whānau lives worse than they were pre-COVID."

The party says the Government failed to develop a separate Māori response to the pandemic.

"Māori leadership across the country stood up and filled this gap, led out by hapū, iwi and Whānau Ora collectives up and down the country. Our own mana motuhake systems proved themselves."

Despite making up 16.5 percent of the population, only 9 percent of New Zealand's 1507 suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 were in Māori. But in countries where the virus has spread through the population much more widely than it has in New Zealand, disadvantaged groups have been hit much harder than others in terms of health outcomes.

While it's not clear exactly how bad unemployment has gotten so far, it's expected to rise to almost 10 percent sometime this year - and Māori unemployment figures tend to be worse than for the general population. The Māori Party's predicting up to 35 percent unemployment for the nation's mana whenua.

"This will drive our people into even deeper poverty and hardship than we have experienced in many decades."

The early signs aren't good, with jobseeker numbers in Taranaki showing Māori and people under 30 the worst-affected by job losses.

Ngarewa-Packer said this will continue if "the Government's systemic racism" isn't stopped.

"Māori must be guaranteed resources for Māori recovery, we cannot go backwards to how we were living pre-COVID - that is not an option for our whānau, too many of whom are struggling just to survive."

Whānau First would:

  • "confirm that all government funding for projects over the next two years guarantee 25 percent Māori direct resourcing combining the delivery of a Māori workforce and the services of owned businesses and organisations
  • "confirm that 25 percent of all projects will be Māori-led recovery projects and business recovery initiatives that partner with hapū, iwi, and Māori organisations and Māori-led businesses
  • guarantee that 25 percent of all Government projects that are prioritised through the COVID-19 Recovery (fast-track consenting) legislation partner with hapū, iwi, and Māori organisations and businesses
  • "emphasise that all COVID-19 recovery bodies reflect the Te Tiriti relationship in their structure and membership
  • "reinforce that COVID-19 recovery projects must enhance the mana o te whenua, the mana o te wai, mana o te moana and protect wāhi tapu, rights, and interests of natural environment."

Part of this will be setting up Iwi Build, with a quarter of the Government's housing budget "allocated towards Māori and include Māori trade trainees and Māori owned businesses, providers and services".

The party said its policies are "modelled off highly successful examples of affirmative action programmes in the USA and Australia that have made huge strides in reducing disadvantage in African-American and Aboriginal communities".

The Government earlier this year set aside $60 billion in borrowing to help the economy during the lockdown and recovery.