We listened to iwi and provided each of them with funding of $30,000 to better enable them to deliver their COVID-19 response. —Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC) draft 2020/2021 Annual Plan

How many dips are allowed?

By Roger Childs

Budget 2020 1 (1)The Coalition Government responded quickly to the needs of New Zealanders when the spread of coronavirus necessitated a lockdown. A wage subsidy was provided for those put out of work; businesses who had suffered a 30% loss or more were compensated; special loan provisions were made for small businesses, and the winter energy subsidy for senior citizens was doubled.  These applied to all Kiwis, and yet one group was singled out for even more help – Maori – with a special allocation of $56 million.

KCDC logoBut wait, there was more – the May Budget earmarked the massive sum of $900 million “to support whanau, hapu and iwi to deal with the fall-out of Covid-19”. Then local Kapiti iwi had their hands out for even more financial assistance from KCDC. Consequently $30,000 was provided for each of Ngati Raukawa, Te Atiawa and Ngati Toa.

Any justification?

At the national level, the case was put for extra funding on the basis of greater vulnerability. Reference was made to the impact of the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic on Maori. Historian Geoffrey Rice estimates that the mortality rate among Maori then was eight times that of European New Zealanders. At that time most Maori still lived in rural areas and often is very unhygienic villages. They also had poor immunity to European diseases, so there was no question about their vulnerability in 1918.

However, that was more than 100 years ago, and since then there has been a great deal of inter-marriage and urbanisation, as well as major improvements in living standards, health and housing. So in 2020 part-Maori people are no more vulnerable to Covid-19 than anyone else. 

As the Covid-19 crisis has played out, Health department statistics reveal that as of 8 July 8.5% of Coronavirus cases were Maori, a racial group which makes up about 17% of New Zealand’s population.  

How would local iwi spend the KCDC money?

Te AtiawaNgati ToaNgati Raukawa

Information provided by the Council through Official Information requests shows that iwi were intending to use the grants for a “pandemic response’ in variety of ways.

Kia Haumaru te Iwi is the name for the Kapiti Maori pandemic response plan. The plan’s goals have been to:

  • reduce the number of Kāpiti Māori who contract COVID-19 
  • provide access to information, resources and practical guidance and advice throughout the COVID-19 pandemic 
  • support Kapiti Maori and provide access to essential resources they need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

More specifically

  • enhancing communication, especially online support
  • iwi leaders checking on members wellbeing
  • providing health information and news updates
  • doing need assessments
  • delivering food packs and hygiene packages
  • hardship grants for newly unemployed and heating 
  • marae sustainability 
  • youth mental wellness and anxiety 
  • support for small business owners.

For non-Maori Kiwis, the overriding question is – haven’t all of these pandemic response strategies been provided for in central government funding and the special extra allocations for Maori?

“The team of five million” includes all New Zealanders who should have equal access to Covid-19 funding and other assistance. There is no case for signalling out one group for special treatment.  After all, as we have heard many times, “we are one people”.