Pasifika will benefit from wider Budget says NZ minister

Former Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, second right, at a past Rotuman Language Week event. Photo: RNZ PACIFIC/Dom Thomas

New Zealand’s Pacific package in its annual Budget focuses on strengthening the Pasifika workforce and includes funding for media entities to deliver Pacific language programming.

The government’s Pacific allocations come to NZ$51 million this year, including $5.3m to support Pacific early childhood education.

That means the total for Pasifika projects since 2019 totals $734m. Last year it was $196m.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Barbara Edmonds said the decrease in funding for 2023 was “a sign of the times that we’re in”.

“That [$51 million] is only for Pacific specific initiatives and Pacific people benefit from the wider budget,” she said.

The government will scrap the $5 prescription co-payment on medicines and will extend its 20 hours of free childcare programme to include two-year-olds, both areas that would benefit Pacific people, Edmonds said.

“We suffer a lot from some of those non-communicable diseases. This means that the barrier is removed to them accessing the medicines they need.

“The extension of 20 hours’ free for two-year-olds means that our children can come through our Pacific education.”

Edmonds said the expansion of the Warmer Kiwi Homes Programme also supported Māori and Pacific people in particular.

“We’re coming through a really tough time, both for our economy and for our people.”

“The Budget is about easing the cost of living pressures for our Pacific community and we have a number of initiatives right throughout the Budget that support that,” she said.

Labour Ministers are sworn in by the Governor-General in a ceremony at Government House.

Barbara Edmonds Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The biggest spend in the Pacific package is $14.1m on the Pacific Community Resilience and Wellbeing Fund. It is an initiative the government says provides funding to support the development of targeted programmes to strengthen the Pacific workforce.

The next biggest spend is $13.3m to implement the Pacific Languages Strategy. The majority – $9.2m – will go to Pacific media entities to deliver Pacific language programming. The remaining $4.1m will go to an online resource hub to create a new platform for Pacific language learners and speakers.

Another initiative, the Pacific Employment Action Plan will get $12.8m, $9.3m of this will go to a contestable fund for community-led employment and training initiatives for Pasifika. The Tupu Tai summer internship programme designed to help get more Pacific people in the public sector will get $2.6m of this and $857,000 will go to helping employers support Pacific workers in culturally responsive ways.

Pacific package breakdown

  • $14.1m – Pacific Community Resilience and Wellbeing Fund – funding to support the development of targeted programmes to strengthen the Pacific workforce.
  • $13.3m – Pacific Languages Strategy – funding for Pacific media entities to deliver Pacific language programming and to create an online resource hub for Pacific language learners.
  • $12.8m – Pacific Employment Action Plan – aims to improve labour market outcomes for Pacific people.
  • $5.3m – Pacific Early Childhood Education – to strengthen and support Pacific early learning services.
  • $3.1m – Supporting Growth, Resilience and Sustainability – support for Pacific-owned businesses.
  • $1.7m – Pacific Data and Digital Inclusion – address systemic data equity issues and improve digital inclusion for Pacific people.
  • $1m – Tupu Aotearoa Programme – provides funding to address cost pressures within the Tupu Aotearoa programme with a focus on those regions affected by recent weather events.

‘It will benefit people’

Auckland University associate professor of public health Dr Collin Tukuitonga says the fact people aren’t recording their RAT results highlights the shortcomings of the Ministry of Health’s daily case numbers.

University of Auckland associate professor of public health Dr Collin Tukuitonga Photo: RYAN ANDERSON/STUFF

Sir Collin Tukuitonga of the University of Auckland said the Budget looked very positive for Pacific families.

“People will always say it’s never enough but it’s going to be definitely better than last week [compared to] when all of this kicks in,” Tukuitonga said.

“So I do think it’ll benefit people without a doubt.”

Tukuitonga said the package was “still an achievement”, even though it was not as large as last year.

“When I was at the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, we didn’t get one cent more. So yes, it’s less than last year, but it’s still an allocation.”

Tukuitonga, like Edmonds, said the overarching initiatives would also benefit Pacific people.

But social policy analyst from the Salvation Army, Ana Ika, said it was “a bit of an underwhelming Budget”.

She said the Budget’s theme – ‘supporting for today, building for tomorrow’ – acknowledged the future but did not do enough to alleviate the immediate costs on families.

However, Ika said the investment into building 3000 additional public homes by June 2025 would benefit Pacific people, who made up about 15 percent of the housing register from December to March of this year.

“We believe that by addressing housing, that in turn will impact our Pasifika communities as well and we think it’s long overdue,” she said.

“This should have come years ago but we’re grateful that it’s here now.”