Te Pūtahitanga O Te Waipounamu Warns That Budget 2021 May Not Meet The Urgent And Increasing Needs Of Whānau
Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu welcomes today’s announcement that Budget 2021 will include dedicated funding for Māori, but cautions that it may not be enough to meet the increasing needs of whānau as we head into a COVID-scarred winter.
Pouārahi Helen Leahy says that the $380m set aside to help Māori into home ownership is a good start, with many South Island whānau describing housing affordability as the biggest challenge they face.
“We are pleased to see that such a basic component of wellbeing – shelter – has been prioritised in this year’s Budget,” says Ms Leahy. “We have seen time and again that access to secure housing lifts whānau outcomes across a range of other areas – mental health, addiction, employment and attendance at school for tamariki.”
However, Ms Leahy warns that housing is just one of many urgent needs, noting that in the past two months, Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has seen a dramatic increase in applications for emergency grants for essentials like food, power and firewood.
“This rapidly increasing desperation is consistent with recent reports suggesting that tamariki Māori experience significantly higher material hardship,” says Ms Leahy. “Our challenge lies in meeting material needs; feeding the family and keeping the lights on and the whare warm. Only when these basic needs are met will whānau have the ability to dream and lift their heads to the future.”
Ms Leahy hopes that an investment of $3.3b to boost benefits will go some way to addressing these material needs, while the announcement of $98.1m to establish the new Māori Health Authority and $126.8m for its programmes is welcome news.
“The Whānau Ora community stands in full support of the Māori Health Authority, and we’re heartened to see that the government is committed to funding this incredibly important initiative,” says Ms Leahy. “Without sufficient funding, the authority will not be able to address the systemic inequity that has seen Māori unable to access the same quality of healthcare.”
Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu will continue to support whānau throughout the South Island, and trusts that the Government will acknowledge the effectiveness of the Whānau Ora approach in meeting the needs of Māori.