22 May 2015

Mixed views on how Budget impacts Maori

9:20 pm on 22 May 2015

A $35 million funding injection has been announced to help Māori improve their housing conditions.

Fiscal Strategy Report

Fiscal Strategy Report Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The funding will provide practical assistance to whānau and will be co-ordinated through the establishment of a Māori Housing Network.

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox said the funding will help Māori in all kinds of situations - from those who are homeless to those who want to buy their own homes.

She said some of the money will go towards providing night shelters in regions that haven't had homelessness before, and don't know how to support those needing accommodation.

There will also be money to help those who struggle to afford rent and some funding will help get Māori into home ownership.

The annual amount for Māori housing is increasing from $7 million to $15.8 million.

Maori Party MP Marama Fox (Left) and Action Station Director, Marianne Elliott having a hongi after the delivery of a 15,000 signature petition calling for a Budget to end child poverty.

Maori Party MP Marama Fox (left) and ActionStation director Marianne Elliott hongi after the delivery of a petition earlier this week calling for a Budget to end child poverty. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Missed chance to raise tobacco tax

A leading Maori health researcher says she is disappointed the Government has not moved to increase tax on tobacco in this year's Budget.

Associate Professor Marewa Glover from Massey University said to meet the Government's goal of a smokefree New Zealand by 2025, it needed to keep raising prices beyond 2016, when the last scheduled 10 percent tax hike kicks in.

"But that definitely would've undermined the 'feel good' nature of this budget and it would have been seen to be taking away with one hand what you've just given with the other. So I can see why it's not there this time," she said.

Budget 2012 provided for a 10 percent increase each year for four years from January 1, 2013. The fourth increase will take place on January 1, 2016.

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga said "these are significant increases and each one encourages more smokers to quit."

Associate Professor Glover said the $25 boost to benefits and rise in family tax credits would relieve the pressure on the poorest families, as long as it was spent "positively".

"If both parents quit smoking, that could be an extra hundred dollars a week for the household budget."

About 45 percent of adult Maori smoke - more than double the rate of non-Maori - and smoking related disease kills about 800 Maori each year.

Associate Professor Glover said price increases were the single biggest factor in deterring young people to start smoking and encouraging smokers to quit.

Taxes must continue to rise, otherwise smokers would simply accommodate the increase, and smoking rates would "creep up again".

She said the $5 million in the Budget for the Pathways to Smokefree 2025 innovation fund was welcome.

Not enough funding to reduce poverty

The Salvation Army said Māori families in the regions have received a minimum lift in economic relief from yesterday's budget, but the Government will have to do more to eliminate poverty.

The army's social policy and parliamentary unit director Sue Hay said the extra $25 a week for families will have a positive impact on regional economies.

But Sue Hay believes that real change could be achieved if the Government produced a long term development plan for the regions.

Ms Hay said without a policy for the future, some of those areas like Gisborne and Northland, will suffer from neglect and that was not good enough.

She said no policy can be a 'one-size-fits all' and it was time for the Government to look at specific areas and how to raise peoples' well-being in certain areas of the country.