John Tamihere: The big winners of this week’s Budget are not Māori

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon (centre), flanked by Finance Minister Nicola Willis (left) and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters. Photo / NZME

This article was first published by the NZ Herald.

John Tamihere is a former Labour MP and is president of Te Pāti Māori.


The 2024 Budget release will be like huddling around a small campfire with those earning over $100,000 per annum on the warm seats at the front while the rest make up the numbers huddled at the back left out as usual.

For Māori, this Budget will have no sweeteners because nothing has changed. We will witness the same thing we have done with past Budgets; 98 per cent of the money will go to Pākehā delivery mechanisms. When they fail, we cop the blame. Winning the Treasury benches ensures that you get to calibrate the money to your side of town so your people benefit.

The argument that NZ First leader Winston Peters and Act leader David Seymour regurgitate about how funding to Māori is separatist actually runs into the converse argument that all of our money has been separated from us in the first place and goes to non-Māori.

What form of separatism is that?

Te Pāti Māori president John Tamihere (left). Photo / NZME

It’s called racism. It’s the “R” word but Māori cannot claim they suffer from having their world view overridden because we all have to be nice white/brown folk. All Māori must integrate and assimilate to fit into the Seymour or Peters mould of what they want, instead of us being true to ourselves.

When it was first introduced, MMP was supposed to smooth out lurches etc to take away massive policy shifts.

Instead, what Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has done is weaponise the 6 per cent NZ First party vote to undermine Māori, and add on Act’s 8 per cent.

That was never the underwrite we all voted on when we switched to MMP from First Past The Post. That minority did not get the mandate provided by the coalition agreement.

Act leader David Seymour. Photo / Marty Melville / NZME

We now have a scorecard that we have evolved in regards to each Budget in what goes to Māori, for Māori by Māori.

Nearly all Māori money goes for Pākehā, by Pākehā to Māori.

The social and economic grind of that goes through non-Māori hands and it employs non-Māori people to fix Māori problems. But the fixers are not a stakeholder in my community, nor are they accountable for it.

When the so-called service fails, it’s actually the client or the patient that fails. And that’s the perverse nature of the present narrative.

We know who the winners are going to be. High earners will be a lot better off and we know this because we have run the numbers.

The lower your income, the less the tax break means, the higher your income, the more money you get. Low-income people will get roughly $2 a week and people like the Prime Minister will end up with hundreds of dollars a week. That’s just rewarding and growing inequality in this nation.

Doing away with the First Home Grants scheme rules out the ability for first-home buyers already on struggle street to own their own home, yet landlords get close to $3 billion to get back in the game, forcing first-home buyers to become renters.

The economy is in reverse gear, going backwards for the last four quarters. This is despite the fastest rate of immigration for over 50 years in 2023-24, yet the economy only grew 0.6 per cent. Guess what, the government’s tax take must treble, so says Treasury.

Tax cuts must be funded by more borrowing and greater national debt.

We have one of the worst economic outcomes occurring and it’s not going to change. As soon as the economy goes down, Māori are the first to go down with it.

The analogy I draw on is when the economy is tanking, we’re in the bottom of the ship and when the ship goes down, we can’t get to the lifeboats.

Furthermore, when a government overtly attacks you and licenses everyone else to have a go at you, whether it’s a racism at MSD or whatever, you’re suffering double jeopardy. Firstly, by the recession, which is through no fault of our own as we don’t run it; secondly, one third of our people are on welfare and looking for work but there is always the suggestion that we’re lazy and waiting for a handout.

We make up almost 20 per cent of this country’s overall population. We need an increase in Māori-focused programming with a to Māori, for Māori, by Māori approach.

For every dollar voted to a Māori, 98 cents goes to a Pākehā to deliver it.

If we could change that model, we wouldn’t be on the backside end of a society in the land of our ancestors. That is the constant struggle we face, to have money voted to us and deployed by us. We have proven ourselves to be capable and world-leading at the services we deliver to our communities on the sniff of an oily rag, yet we are never recognised for it.

Opinion by Te Pāti Māori president John Tamihere first published in the NZ Herald.