Whānau Ora needs to deliver on its $80mil budget - National

By Tema Hemi

Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare revealed today that his agency could get even more money in future government Budgets.  The announcement was made in front of the Māori Affairs Select Committee and it came as a shock to National's Whānau Ora spokesperson, Jo Hayes, who says Henare needs to focus on his current $80mil budget.

"I did ask [Henare] about if Whānau Ora would expect more money in the next budget of 2020.  He said he wasn't ruling that out," says Hayes. 

Whānau Ora is the brainchild of Tariana Turia and the previous National government and has an overarching goal of bettering Māori outcomes across the government services spectrum. 

"Will he be able to implement it the way I think it should be?" asks Hayes, "No, I don't think so, I think there is a lot more to go.  I think a lot of the areas around [health and education], a lot of systemic changes need to actually occur and it's going to take a long time."

Henare says the ideology of Whānau Ora across agencies will help to broaden its scope and interact with more Māori communities. 

"The objective is to further broaden Whānau Ora across different government departments and Oranga Tamariki is one of them.  There is a lot we can do to accomplish that aspiration, the law is one area and Oranga Tamariki policies are another- and Māori services also."

The minister knows he has his work cut out for him.

"That is the challenge we are confronted with now, a joint effort from government departments is much needed. But in saying that, my responsibility is to ensure that I attend to Whānau Ora and if it fails because of the government departments, that's all on me.

"A small portion of our new funds will be on researching outcomes for whānau in health.  From there I can talk to the minister about  health issues, we may be able to increase funding at that point."

The $80mil Whānau Ora funding was the biggest announcement for Māori in this year's Budget.  Hayes says it needs to be channeled to the right areas.

"Where I would like the money to go is directly to the providers who deliver the services out there.  He said he was trying to avoid 'provider aura', well hey, at the end of the day it's got to go somewhere into the regions and that's the avenue it will go under," says Hayes.