Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency for the South Island, is disappointed that there is little new Māori money in this year’s Budget but says its door is open if the Coalition Government wants to hear more about effective models of social investment.

Budget 2024 allocated $49 million over four years to set up a new Social Investment Agency to replace the Social Wellbeing Agency The new agency comes into operation on July 1. It is tasked with developing the tools needed to directly deliver social investment programmes and will also set up and manage a social investment fund to directly commission outcomes for community and non-profit groups as well as iwi providers.

Ivy Harper, Pouārahi at Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, said the South Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency had been directly investing in whānau Māori and community groups for almost 10 years.

“We are here, we are doing it, we’ve been doing it since Whānau Ora was introduced by the National Government in 2014, and we know that it works because over that time we have developed tools to measure the impact of our approach. What we have found matches our experience; that beyond the dollar figure or the actual investment itself, or even the approach, the critical factor is whānau; any approach has to be whānau-led.”

Harper welcomed a greater focus on measuring social investment across all government spending but said it did not need to be contained to one agency. Investment in Whānau Ora had potential across all key ministries, she said.

“I think the key point is that the Whānau Ora approach is not something that can be copied and pasted; it still needs to be owned by Māori, for Māori and whānau-led. It is not just a matter of being whānau-centred.”

Budget 2024 was light on new spending, particularly for Māori development. While Whānau Ora escaped cuts, it also provided little certainty for the future.

Harper said, overall, Budget 2024 was disappointing for Māori. “I don’t think there were any high expectations, but the fact is whānau are still struggling under the weight of living costs. Tax cuts alone are not going to solve that.”

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu is a partnership between eight iwi in Te Waipounamu and works to support all Māori living in Te Waipounamu, Rakiura and Rēkohu/Wharekauri. The Whānau Ora network spans more than 71 partners and dozens of entities across the South Island.

Hina-i-māra Moses-Te Kani, Co-Chairperson of Te Taumata, the shareholder council of Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, said the agency would continue doing what it did best: advocating for and supporting whānau Māori.

She welcomed Ministers across all portfolios to discuss the commissioning approach in Te Waipounamu and hoped the Coalition Government would take the time to sit down and listen.

“What we are seeing across the country is a reflection of what our whānau are saying. There is deep and genuine concern across the spectrum, from the removal of Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act to the proposed removal of Māori wards, the introduction of fast-track legislation, and discussion around the use of te reo Maori in government departments.

“We say it’s time to stop, look around and let’s not unwind any more of the hard work done across the generations. Whānau have the solutions, they just need to be listened to.”

Moses-Te Kani said yesterday’s Census data showed the Māori population across Te Waipounamu was only getting bigger, and it was important that whānau here had a voice.