Eye on the Electorate
None of us were under any illusion that the economic and fiscal outlook would sustain a generous spending programme to meet every need.
All the forecasts warn us that we are heading into a deeper and more prolonged slowdown with unemployment likely to peak in the middle of next year.
The reality of recession is felt particularly by Maori whanau, including those in Manawatu and I mihi to their resilience, their ability to be collective and their capacity to support each other.
In its most basic form, while the Maori participation rate increased in the past year, the rise in employment was similar to the overall employment growth and we are talking between 0.5 per cent to 0.7 per cent.
But for unemployment, the contrast is stark. We are sitting on an unemployment rate for Maori of 9.2 per cent, which is more than twice the annual average rate for all people of 4.5 per cent.
And we are particularly alert to the needs of our young Maori people, between 18 and 24 years; a group that has suffered disproportionately and consistently, not just this year, but in the 10 years leading up to it.
These are grim times, and we must prepare for the certainty that pressure on households will intensify.
This Budget is a careful Budget.
For the Maori Party, protecting the vulnerable was an important priority in our negotiations. We welcome the allocation of up to $40 million for community responses to the recession.
In our journeys across Aotearoa we come across amazing stories of our every-day entrepreneurs who are designing solutions for their own local issues.
The community response fund is an opportunity to support the people to devise their own answers to the needs that will inevitably flow as a result of the economic downturn.
The investment in infrastructure is another open door for Maori people. The $7.45 billion is a create-work scheme on a massive scale a scheme that will result in the construction of major projects and in the longer term will contribute to the lifting of economic growth.
Our approach to Budget 2009 was also developed around holding the line on whanau ora. There is nothing of more importance than thinking of the families who inspire us to build this nation in a way that takes their well-being into account.
We celebrate the healthy homes approach that has been achieved. We are delighted with the $323 million allocated to insulate and heat homes built before 2000.
And we are proud of the commitments made in allocating $12 million over the next two years for the rural housing programme.
I'm also pleased that almost $70 million has enabled our kohanga reo and playcentres to benefit from the expansion of the 20-hours free early childhood education initiative.
And then we have $20 m to extend Te Kotahitanga programme in 30 more schools, to ensure teachers are equipped with the skills and strategies to ensure Maori students reach their full potential.
Last week's Budget also saw $22 m devoted to speed up the process and reduce the time it takes to settle treaty claims.
We know that streamlining the process is a clear mechanism to achieve the enduring reconciliation between iwi, hapu and the Crown that our tupuna believed was possible when they signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
And so, in this 2009 Budget, we can see the influence of the Maori Party right across the government, including some significant gains achieved in our ministerial positions.
In my portfolios, I am so pleased that more than $11 m has been set aside to support those unsung heroes in our community the informal carers the people who support an ill, disabled or frail aged family member.
And I am proud, too, of the support that will enable stronger engagement among local communities.
- Manawatu Standard