As signalled, tobacco excise tax will increase 10 percent each year for the next four years. On this issue, Bill English acknowledged the work of the Maori Party.
Most significantly, however, the Maori Party has secured $19m for “Maori medium early childhood education providers”, $10m towards Maori trade training, the changes to teacher ratios will not affect Maori immersion schools and $24m was allocated to combat rheumatic fever. As far as cuts go, Maori development funding has been cut and transferred to policy functions, Whanau Ora administration funding has been decreased, as has funding for Maori radio and Maori tourism. Surprisingly, I think, Te Puni Kokiri’s budget has decreased a mere $1m to $60m.
In all, the budget is neither here nor there for the Maori Party. The wins offset the losses, but that cannot be considered a win. The Maori Party needed to secure a big bang win and create a narrative from there. For example, a 50m win for education. The Maori Party could then claim they are protecting Maori education from the government’s agenda, read cuts. Of course, to be fair, the Maori Party have secured significant wins in Maori education, but not enough to leave a lasting impression nor enough to create a sustainable narrative. It was, I think, essential for the Maori Party to distance themselves from what was, on the whole, an austerity budget. However, they are, thanks to only meagre wins, tainted by association.
Having said that, the Maori Party should be applauded for securing what they did, especially considering the government’s approach to the budget. In an environment of cuts, the Maori Party has secured some funding increases and, for all intents and purposes, the Vote Maori Affairs Budget has remained the same.
Before moving on, I should point out the significance of Maori immersion schools avoiding the student/teacher ratio changes. First of all it shows that Hekia Parata has not sold out tino rangatiratanga entirely, secondly it shows that Hekia implicitly acknowledges that higher teacher ratios hurt education:
"Proportionately immersion schools are more successful in raising Maori achievement than mainstream and we do not want to impair that progress"
In other words, higher student to teacher ratios hurt education.
So, in all, the Maori Party have done well considering the circumstances, but not enough to boost their support.
As for cuts, there were a few. For me, it’s not the cuts themselves that worry, it’s where the savings from those cuts were transferred. Maori development funding has suffered and the savings have been transferred to policy advice under Crown/Maori relationships, ministerial servicing and Maori development. Effectively Maori development funding is going towards supporting government ministers so, in other words, the funding is going towards fattening up the Maori bureaucracy (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s questionable). In all, the policy advice budget comes in at $23m which seems very, very gratuitous. Surely much of that money is better spent on Maori development.
Maori radio has had a minor cut while Maori TV’s budget remains the same – again. Significantly, Te Puni Kokiri’s budget has fallen to $60m – a $1m cut. Of course, this is only what is budgeted, one would expect savings to be made within that budget.
Lastly, the Treaty negotiations budget is $170m of which $66m is to support lending to implement the Ngāti Whatua o Orakei Deed of Settlement and $24m for the administration and implementation of the MCA Act.
In all, that’s the budget for Maori. Nothing much, but enough considering the circumstances I suppose. If the above signals all the Maori Party can achieve in the next two budgets, then their demise becomes more certain.