Budget 2023 leaves a 'hollow feeling'

May 25, 2023

By Arihia Bennett, chief executive of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu chief executive Arihia Bennett

After a succession of big-spending budgets and much funding allocated to cyclone and flood recovery, Budget 2023 was understandably restrained.

The end of Covid-spending and the necessity of funding cyclone and flooding recovery have led us to the so-called “no frills” budget. Still, for Māori, it was underwhelming.

It leaves a hollow feeling in the puku because inequity persists in Aotearoa for Māori.

Yes, $825 million is earmarked for Māori initiatives. But that is down on last budget’s $1.2 billion.

While I am pleased with the funding set aside for Māori education, health and housing, the budget fails to outline intergenerational long-term outcomes. It is good to see targeted funding, but who is keeping an eye on the outcomes?

And how does the Government look to match the aspirations of rangatiratanga (self-determination)?

The proof will be in the pudding, so to speak. People want traction and outcomes.

The Māori economy is growing rapidly. It is growing at a faster rate than the national economy and is worth more than $70 billion, on track to tip $100 billion by 2030.

Crown-iwi settlements are rolling ahead and creating both on- and offshore opportunities in the business sector. We are establishing innovative, sustainable, de-carbonised businesses, as well as building whānau capability. This is set to bloom in years to come.

Investing in the Māori economy is vital. It does not exist in seclusion. Businesses within the Māori economy trade with the rest of the economy. It contributes to the wealth of the country.

And Māori business interests go well beyond the commercial. We look to form intergenerational relationships that benefit our whānau and wider regional communities.

We see ourselves as kaitiaki, stewards for the future for the next generation. We strive to be responsible leaders, crafting a pathway for our tamariki.

Cost of living

Most of us, but Māori especially, are battling the rising cost of living. We need brave economic policy to help us to steer the waka through difficult times.

While we applaud the expansion of free early childhood care, scrapping the $5 prescription fee, the public transport price reductions, and the extension of Warmer Kiwi Homes, the budget could have done much more to address the wider cost of living issues. We need transformational thinking, food security, Māori housing – a more intergenerational focus.

When you break down the Whānau Ora funding, it is inadequate and will not do enough to address inequity. Culturally biased constructs diminish our opportunities and disadvantage us throughout society and institutions.

We need to move away from initiatives that serve as an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff to solid funding to correct existing institutional bias.

We need to lift everyone up. Māori can and do lift ourselves. That’s what rangatiratanga is all about. Solutions for Māori by Māori are what we need.