Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson spoke confidently as they proudly delivered the Budget earlier this month and rebutted against the duo that was a shouting Simon Bridges and a very enthused Paula Bennett. A lot of Kiwi media outlets have been reporting on how this Budget is a “health win” for New Zealand, but there seems to be an unevenness of funding in one of the crucial parts of the Budget which will have big impacts on our future to come.
Labour’s original campaign to become the leading government lacked policies that would directly look after the Māori people of New Zealand, and this year’s Budget reflects that. The Treasury website states that the Budget has an allocated $99 million “for the promotion of Māori language and culture through direct funding of broadcasting services” and that there is only $18 million set aside for Māori to advise and support “decision-making by Ministers on government policy matters”.
The way I understand this is that there will be more Te Reo used on our broadcasting services, which is great don’t get me wrong, but that there is next to no funding for Māori voices to be considered when deciding on nation-wide policies. It almost feels like a faux win. In the media it will seem as though Te Reo, and by extension Māori, are valued and promoted. But the actual policies being decided on that affect every New Zealander won’t really take Māori perspective into consideration. This is especially important as Māori Television reports that out of the “120 seats in Parliament, 29 of those belong to members of Māori descent,” which further demonstrates the inequality of representation.
Māori focus and prosperity are crucial for New Zealand because for too long Māori have been ignored, or worse, used as mere token pieces. As said before, this Budget has been touted as a huge health win for New Zealand, but I’ll disagree with that as only $6 million dollars is being used to specifically support the physical and mental wellbeing of Māori. Suicide and serious mental health concerns affect Māori largely, with 50 per cent of special mental health patients/cases seen by the DHB from January 1 to December 31, 2016 being and identifying as Māori. With these dire statistics, I’m shocked that there is such a small amount of money delegated to Māori mental wellbeing. The National Mental Health Services have a budget of $68 million dollars, although where this money will be spent in this sector hasn’t fully been released yet.
For Pakeha New Zealander’s this Budget seems like a huge win, but if we properly look at the percentages of where the funding is going, it’s not a win for anyone. Māori and other minority ethnic groups have been severely left behind. If we don’t look after all members of our society through policy and funding, then there might be even greater losses to come.