Research backs Whānau Ora benefits
New research from Lincoln University and Ihi Research shows every dollar invested in Whānau Ora (WO) initiatives could return $7 to the national economy, as well as societal benefits.
WO is a cross-government programme that supports whānau-based initiatives focussed on the health, education and social connection of New Zealand whānau. Commissioning agency Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu invested in South Island initiatives.
LU economics professor Paul Dalziel and his research team had used one such initiative, He Toki Ki Te Mahi (HTKTM), as a case study for their research.
HTKTM was a programme supporting Māori and Pasifika apprentices into construction trades with the support of Ara Institute, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Hawkins Construction.
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He said HTKTM had many things in common with similar apprenticeship support programmes, but provided a key difference to the 39 whānau involved.
"It involves the whole whānau. The whānau are part of the journey, consequently it is more robust then some programmes I have studied in the past," Dalziel said.
The LU research showed that for each dollar of the $780,000 invested in the programme between 2015 and to 2020, it could provide up to $7 in return – a potential $5.5 million boost to the economy.
Dalziel said that even if they based calculations on half the national average number of Māori apprentices achieving their trade, the programme would provide $3 for every dollar invested.
"The construction industry is particularly strong because it's high productivity. There are other sectors where there are very high incomes, so yes, we could definitely replicate it in other industries."
He Toki Apprenticeship Trust chair Dr Eruera Tarena said it was disappointing that during election debates the only solution discussed to address skill shortages was immigration.
"No-one really raised the potential on how we could build those houses ourselves. The risk is we put that in the too hard basket and problematise our rangatahi (youth)."
Tarena said the increasing numbers of young Māori in the workforce presented an opportunity to upskill the working population.
"The findings are significant. They show the benefits of supporting Māori to be successful early in their careers. We're able for the first time to show how all people in our community can benefit from Māori success."
Ihi Research's Dr Catherine Savage and her team focussed on WO initiatives commissioned in 2016.
After splitting the initiatives into seven pou (pillars), they then looked at each of the 38 initiatives and the benefits they provided.
"Across our initiatives, every single pou is covered," Savage said.
She said the research showed significant outcomes in encouraging whānau to participate in Te Ao Māori (the Māori world), lead healthy lifestyles, be resilient and create wealth.
"The most important finding is the opportunity for social connection. That's incredibly important . . . it's just as important for your health as giving up drugs, giving up smoking, reducing your weight or having a healthy diet."
Savage said the report recommended continued focus on sustaining the initiatives and looking at how society valued social connections in communities.
Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu (TPTW) pouarahi (chief executive) Helen Leahy said it was exciting to see the data back the work of WO initiatives.
"We have seen through the change in strength of many of our whānau that a difference is being made, but we haven't been able to quantify it in terms which the government would listen to."
Having the research showing the social and economic benefits of WO had given groups like TPTW a platform to grow, she said.
"I want to see, right across government, the ministers have faith in the family to do for themselves, as in our WO approach."