Funding-starved Māori sector dipping into reserves

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Two weeks out from the Coalition Government’s first ‘wellbeing’ budget there are concerns that a funding-starved Māori sector is reaching its breaking point.

Māori Television estimates inflation alone costs the broadcaster $400,000 each year as its budget for in-house content and administration remains the same as it was 15 years ago.

The Māori radio sector is facing similar challenges as underfunding prevents stations from investing in new infrastructure like online tools, representatives told a Parliamentary Select Committee. Last year Te Ūpoko o Te Ika, the pioneering Wellington-based station, came close to shutting its doors after another round of funding shortfalls.

Te Tumu Paeroa, the organisation responsible for helping manage over 100,000 hectares of Māori land, is also feeling the pinch as its total expenditure exceeds its Crown appropriation.

To cover the shortfall between what it gets and what it does the organisation is dipping into its General Purposes Fund, a managed fund that helps the Māori Trustee fulfill its statutory obligations.

Now the Māori Affairs Select Committee is raising the alarm with committee members questioning in their annual review whether this is appropriate and whether costs might come down.

 “We are concerned to see money being taken from the Fund, which should be used for investments,” the Committee members said in their annual review.

“We asked whether this suggests that the organisation’s administrative costs are excessive. For example, [Te Tumu Paeroa] spent $851,000 on events, team building, conferences, and seminars in 2017/18. We are also aware of concern among landowners about the level of fees it charges.”

But the Committee did acknowledge that “regarding fees, the Māori Trustee said they are actually very low for the service landowners receive and would be higher in the commercial market. In fact, some clients who are ready for “off-boarding”, moving out onto commercial arrangements, have said they want to stay with Te Tumu Paeroa because the fees are so reasonable.”

It is unclear whether Te Tumu Paeroa is in line for a funding boost in this year’s wellbeing budget.

In last year’s budget small operational funding cuts were made to the sector with Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Māori Development, losing $3m in baseline funding each year for the next four years while funding for Whānau Ora remained the same with the campaign promise to increase funding by $20m deferred until after the review panel reported.

However, small funding increases were made to the investment sector with $37m going to a reorganised Māori Development Fund. Commentators welcomed the investment, but noted it could have gone further.

“The issue is how is that money is going to be used and implemented,” said Tuia Group director Toko Kapea.

“But I totally acknowledge as a headline it's not as substantial as it could have been.”

The wellbeing budget will be delivered on May 27.

Note: Te Tumu Paeroa’s General Purpose Fund should not be confused with its Common Fund. The General Purposes Fund exists to fund Te Tumu Paeroa’s developments and services while the Common Fund holds money of behalf of clients and land owners.  

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in the house


The Māori Affairs Select Committee met this week to consider the Inquiry into health inequities for Māori, the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute Vesting Bill, and the Electoral (Entrenchment of Māori Seats) Amendment Bill.

The Committee’s annual reviews and briefings into the relevant public sector organisations (e.g. Te Taura Whiri I Te Reo Māori, Te Māngai Pāho, etc) for 2017/18 are also complete.

The House is not sitting next week.

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