Government actions strengthening Māori success

Tākina Puanga. Ko Puanga kei runga. Ko Puanga e Rangi. Tākina mai te ara o Puanga nui o te rangi. Tākina ngā pou o te tau. Ki te whai ao ki te ao marama.

Puanga or Rigel celebrations reflect a renewed energy across our communities – to acknowledge those who have past and set them free from the Whata of Maru to the Kupenga of Taramainuku. Our people are self-reliant, enjoy the rewards of hard work, and uphold community responsibilities to manaaki and share the harvest with whānau members. 

Over the last few months, I have seen and participated in many rich Māori experiences like:

  • Te Tai Tokerau Iwi and Raukokore whānau proudly showing me dams that will unlock Māori land.
  • The investiture of Tā Herewini Parata – great day. Great man. Great iwi. I’m glad we can reconvene that hui today.
  • Mōkai Pātea – the people of the stars carrying out Te Maru o te Tau rituals at a place called Awarua Te Riu o Puanga; and 
  • Bluffies hosting me at the Ocean Beach freezing works where enterprises are growing asparagopsis seaweed, pāua, and whitebait and making gin.

These experiences and others motivate me to stand for:

  • Te reo and tikanga;
  • Tiriti/Treaty futures; 
  • Enhanced taiao outcomes;
  • Improvement Māori social achievement;
  • Unleashing of Māori economic development; and
  • Recalibration of housing. 

Under the aura of Puanga and the rise of Matariki, I want to outline my priorities and key government actions for strengthening Māori success. 

Our country is the best country on earth. We are right in the middle of Antarctica, Tierra del Fuego, Uluru and Hawaii. Massive Indo-Pacific trading opportunities are at the waharoa of our country with each of China, Japan, SE Asia, and the Americas only one flight away. 

We have enough resources to house, feed and water all New Zealanders - but like all countries, we have our own challenges. Papatūānuku, our people, pipes and pylons need responsible care. 

We know many Māori are doing it tough especially with the high cost of living. Various indicators demonstrate disproportionate impacts among Māori:

  • 65% of persistent serious rangatahi offenders; 40% of all Jobseekers; and 50% of households in Emergency Housing are Māori; 
  • Māori academic performance at curriculum Year 8 for Mathematics and Statistics is 21% (circa half the rate of all New Zealand students); 
  • Regular attendance by Māori children at school was 40% in Term 4 of 2023 (noting that less than 60% of Māori achieved NCEA Level 2 in 2023); 
  • Less than half of us own our own house; and 
  • Māori median salaries are about $75 per week lower than the median salary.

This government is relentless about rebuilding our economy, delivering better public services, and addressing major environmental challenges. For me, this must specifically address the disproportionate needs of many Māori. 

By 2040 and preferably earlier, we can right-size the outcomes to realise equality of opportunity and equal citizenship, but more importantly our potential as Māori to catapult our strong whānau, communities and New Zealand forward.

It is with these experiences, motivations, and challenges in mind that I speak to you today.


Te Reo Māori is part of the DNA of this country – important for past, present and future. National-led governments have contributed to reo revitalisation over many decades –Te Matatini, Kōhanga Reo, Wānanga, and broadcasting efforts including recent support for the Māori Spectrum Working Group.   

In Budget 2024, the government retained $150m of funding for organisations like Te Taura Whiri, Te Māngai Pāho, and Whakaata Māori as well as Te Mātāwai. 

Within that funding envelope, I expect to see a unified, value for money effort to ensure that various Government entities are paddling in a collaborative direction with Te Mātāwai – that we get to one million speakers of conversational Māori language by 2040 or earlier, more than 4 out of 5 New Zealanders value Te Reo Māori as a key part of our national identity, and we increase fluency rates.   

This government is committed to delivering better public services that all New Zealanders can effectively access. Whilst users will generally communicate in English – more will increasingly communicate in te reo Māori as the language of choice.  The public service will evolve accordingly over time.

Māori rituals also set this country apart from any other and contribute to stronger nationhood. 

Puanga and Matariki tikanga are reincarnating en masse. Hautapu is now a national event – taking place this Friday with Ngāi Tahu on Kā Papa Toitoi - Treble Cone. Tapareireia koia tapa! 

Astrological sentinels such as Dr Ruakere Hond and Rangi Mātāmua ONZM are inspiring thousands of New Zealanders daily. By Māori - for Māori - for everyone is something that our culture ignites.   

Pōhiri happen at the highest levels of international relations and will elevate as we strengthen ties with countries visibly steeped in relational dynamics not just transactional dynamics. Two weeks ago, NZDF personnel led-out a classic pōhiri as the Prime Minister and Dame Cindy Kiro welcomed Chinese Premier Li.  Six weeks ago, NWO carried out a phenomenal ā-tinana whakatau and on surround TV at the Hi-Tech Awards in the Spark Arena. Love that new waka on the Waitematā too!

Haka are religiously performed by schools throughout the country – ask any Auckland Grammar School and King’s College students who were involved in their pre-match rituals two Saturdays ago in Auckland. I look forward to hearing a haka soon that starts with “Ko Wai Rā, Ko Wai Rā? Tipene, Tipene, Tipene,” shivering backbones across Tāmaki Makaurau.   

Te Matatini is growing especially among rangatahi. Last year’s national comps at Eden Park evidenced that haka is more than cultural - it has economic, logistics, and societal implications. This government’s commitment of c.$50m to kapa haka follows on from the Labour government’s scaffolding, addresses the pending fiscal cliff, enables regional investment, and also gives greater certainty for our kapa communities.  Kino te reka – see you this week in Whakatū!  

Finally, I am seeking advice to reimagine Te Māori as one method to enhance our connections with the world through culture and trade.

Whānau, my message is that Māori culture is embraced in different ways by millions of New Zealanders. It is fundamental – but should not be fundamentalist to our country’s future.


Settling longstanding Tiriti/Treaty claims, implementing the settlement commitments, and upholding Treaty settlements, are important to this government.  

Te Tiriti o Waitangi – the Treaty of Waitangi is a foundational document for New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements and key to the past, present and future. A National-led government started the comprehensive settlement process.  Minister Goldsmith is determined to finalise the process over the next five years.

Restoring the Crown’s honour is vital to us and we must ensure the optimal mix of cultural and commercial redress. Treaty settlements have genuinely spring-boarded iwi like Waikato-Tainui to prudently use their assets to generate tribal, local, and regional momentum. 

Who would have thought in 1994 the Pullman Te Arikinui, the Novotel Auckland Airport, two hotels and The Base shopping centre in Hamilton West, and of course the incredible Ruakura logistics development would be owned by Waikato-Tainui. Me mihi ka tika ki a Koro Wetere, John Spencer me Tā Robert Mcleod mā.

This government has started our parliamentary term with intent around Treaty settlements by completing the Whakatōhea readings and progressing the Taranaki Maunga and various Hauraki readings.

As negotiators know, the process does not stop with passing legislation. There are many settlement commitments to carry out – nearly two-thirds are with the Department of Conservation, Land Information NZ, Te Arawhiti and the Ministry of Education – so far, 45% are marked down as complete.

I encourage all with interests here to login to Te Haeata at Te Arawhiti – the Treaty settlement portal – to actively monitor progress on commitments. 


Conservation land comprises around 30% of the total land in New Zealand. The government and I are deeply committed to protecting our rich native flora and fauna. The taiao provides various platforms for the country’s economic success including tourism. 

In my role as the Minister of Conservation, I have prioritised a number of basic matters to reset the role of government. These include clarifying what constitutes high conservation value, activating diverse revenue streams, and reducing the regulatory burden that weighs down on decision making across conservation matters.

We all know that the Taiao is under pressure.  Biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes in particular are facing significant challenges with predators, pests, weeds, and climate issues.  There are some challenges around optimal revenue models – and generating the funds required to deliver on these responsibilities.

However, there are some outstanding examples of capable private, philanthropic and public collaboration around the conservation of taiao. I have been thrilled to see successful Māori-led taiao projects like Taranaki Maunga – He Kawa Ora, Raukūmara Pae Maunga and Te Tapu o Tāne showcase the perpetual commitment our people have to the taiao.

As many of you know, I was James Brown’s first cadet at Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki and was schooled daily in sifting through champagne aspirations on much less than kombucha budgets. 

We do need to work through the Options Development Group recommendations and other Tiriti/Treaty interfaces to clarify this space especially around planning and concessions. Conservation intersects with kaitiakitanga but let’s not assume that they mirror one another – we need to see both across our majestic land and seascapes.


Budget 2024 provided an opportunity to recalibrate the NZ economy by instilling more fiscal responsibility to eliminate ineffective government spending, reduce our country’s debt, and offer tax relief defensibly paid for through reprioritisation. 

We want to see Iwi and Māori business represent a greater percentage of the economy and lift our nation’s productivity, along with greater prosperity for us all.

Right now, tribal leaders estimate that the economic delta for Māori - the difference between Māori business performance and NZ business performance - is c$40 billion in revenue each year and nearly $140 billion in asset value. 

The social delta just from median salaries alone – ensuring that every working age Māori gets the same salary as other New Zealanders – is worth more than $2.5 billion in revenue into whānau Māori pockets per annum. The Doctrine of Discovery is topical and important. Those economic and social deltas are worth me fighting for.

While inflation has dropped towards the desired band of 1-3%, interest rates continue to remain high. The cost of living crisis is real. This hurts our whānau in basic situations: no going to watch the Ō-Rākau movie; no math after-school programme for their tamariki - cannot give a cash koha for the cousin’s tangi at the marae nor get the petrol to go there. Many whānau deliberately skip on kai and heating costs just to survive.

Getting control of inflation and reprioritising Government spending is a major first step for our Manu Pūtea Nicola Willis to right-size the economy and address the cost of living crisis.  By taking deliberate steps for this Budget, Minister Willis has ensured c.$415 million stays in the pockets of Māori through tax relief.  Ka pai hoki!

Lifting New Zealand's economic performance is a top government priority. 

We want to lift New Zealand’s productivity to be in the top half of the OECD by 2040. Given that Māori GDP per hour is estimated to be less than half of New Zealand’s GDP, Māori have significant challenge and opportunity to deliver an outsized contribution.

In other words, the country's economic success will be massively influenced by Māori economic and export development – like the recent Ahuwhenua Trophy winner, Wairarapa Moana ki Pouakani Incorporation, or Paeroa-based Agrisea.

Our strategic priorities as a government include lifting capital investment, enhancing competition and improving access to finance including overseas investment. We will lift New Zealand's economic performance by:

  • Enabling more efficient and resilient infrastructure;
  • Growing skills for economic growth;
  • Increasing trade with the world;
  • Recalibrating our science and tech; and
  • Reducing red tape to enable more development.

Te Pūtea Matua and Treasury have accurately observed that access to capital is challenging for many Māori organisations. Research also suggests banks are charging higher rates with tougher conditions for Māori businesses. I am advocating for the current banking inquiry to consider this matter and expect to look at novel government-enabled arrangements for access to capital.

I expect to see material investment in Māori economic development led out by Matua Tararā Minister Jones who is championing the $1.2 billion Regional Infrastructure Fund. Big tautoko is coming – foreshadowed by last week’s announcements to support a Te Ātiawa project for Taranaki Maunga, and funding for Tōrere Macadamias and Ngāi Tukairangi among others. 

Rātana and other sites of significance are on the radar as well as aquaculture investments. As is more support for Category Three marae and land affected by last year’s major weather events.

I am advocating that infrastructure investment across the Government’s economic programme deliberately considers Iwi and Māori co-investment across the infrastructure pipeline. This thinking is not new - a lot of Rākaunui phases ago, Tā Mark Solomon and others led-out the charge. Some have already started: look at the Ruakura logistics project, and Tauhara and Tuaropaki geothermal investments.

Landlocked land and perpetual leases are confronting for our overall productivity – they are also complex issues. Options include to refine Māori by enabling whānau to build more homes and businesses on Māori land. 

The Manu Pihopa Chris Bishop and Minister Chris Penk have recently announced consultation to build granny flats including on Māori land. Mahi is now underway to look at a potential NDS for papakāinga. We would like to hear your comments through the consultation process. 


A stronger economy also allows us to afford better public services like health and education. 

Māori health is severely compromised - especially child immunisation rates for Māori two-year-olds being around 70% when we need them to be over 90%. Our government’s intentions are to improve life expectancy and quality of life. Our population is nearly 15 years younger than Pākehā New Zealanders while we have a seven-year gap in our life expectancy against all New Zealanders.

We are committed to delivering health closer to the hapū and home including Iwi Māori Partnership Boards being able to strategically commission to address needs that they have identified.     

Health has received an additional $16 billion in additional cost pressure uplift over three budget cycles.  

The Māori specific health budget of around $700m has not changed – instead Manu Hauora Dr Shane has coordinated nearly $40 million extra into Māori health each year over the next three years.   We will back Māori health providers delivering into communities because we know the reach and whanaungatanga of many providers will penetrate the distrust and hesitancy of many Māori to engage with health providers.  

Manu Mātauranga Erica Stanford is clear that all Māori learners and their whānau should experience success in the education system. Kaupapa Māori and Māori medium education sets a cultural example of outstanding achievement outcomes. She has supported c. $100million in capital funding for Māori medium and kaupapa Māori education projects across 2024-2025.

Parents and whānau need to be able to access excellent education services, and we want to enable continued access to te reo Māori, kaupapa Māori education pathways and language learning opportunities.

The evidence shows that for Māori to enjoy and achieve education success as Māori, education provision needs to:

  • Have identity, language, and culture at the centre; 
  • Support high expectations and a strong sense of belonging; and 
  • Māori need to be able to exercise their agency and authority in education. 

It is a priority for the Government to understand the evidence-base around what works best, and where we have success, to continue to grow these opportunities.

Those of us here in Pōneke do not have all the answers, that’s why our government supports devolution. It is why National supported Dame Tariana to set-up Whānau Ora to localise delivery to Māori and all New Zealanders. 

We will continue to back community organisations and iwi who are delivering results for their people and communities. That’s why we are investing another $182 million for Whānau Ora this year. The kaupapa of Whānau Ora could and should align with social investment.

It is simply not acceptable to this government that, despite investing more than $70 billion every year into social services, New Zealanders are not seeing the outcomes we deserve. We need to use data and analytics to work out what works and put - pre-existing and possibly new - dollars where they can make the biggest impact, such as the Ngā Tini Whetu programme.


As the Associate Minister of Housing, I am tasked with Government Target 8 to reduce the number of households in Emergency Housing by 75% by 2030. Half the whānau in this moral, social, and financial catastrophe are Māori. Half the whānau have tamariki. Their collective situation is sub-optimal.

All Māori and all New Zealanders deserve adequate housing. This includes the thousands of Māori in Emergency Housing, the 12,000 or so whānau with genuine needs on the Social Housing register, and many whānau with genuine housing needs who do not turn up in either Emergency Housing or on the register. 

We are serious about our Tāhuhu intentions. There has been an indicative reduction of over 25% of households in Emergency Housing in the seven months we have been in office – only blue shoots at this stage and we have a lot more mahi to do on a day by day, week by week, region by region basis.

Working more with Community Housing Providers, iwi and others to fund 1,500 more social housing places in the next few years is inevitable. Further work will be done to reduce Contracted Emergency Housing in Rotorua – home of the Manu Hokohoko, Todd McLay.

We want to work with Iwi and Māori who have a deliberate intention to not only provide housing but also the manaaki and tautoko required for many whānau who need it.  The mahi of Toitū Tairāwhiti, Ka Uruora and Te Tihi o Ruahine exemplify action in this regard – and I mihi to those involved in delivering more adequate housing and manaaki across the motu. Social investment outcomes are and can happen more through housing – thank you for your mahi among our communities and we hope the active purchasing of housing and ultimately social outcomes will commence soon with reduced red tape around housing on our whenua.


In my view, Māori communities will be at the forefront of our country delivering on:

  • Equality of opportunity and equal citizenship for Māori 
  • An out-performing small, advanced economy; and
  • A thriving liberal democracy with multi-cultural dynamics based on bi-cultural and whakapapa foundations.

Iwi and Māori organisations intersect with community groups, business enterprises, and government. Kāwana and rangatira need to work more closely together with pace and precision around evidence-based outcomes rather than inputs.

Whānau, this government seeks your help to:

  • Get our economy back on track; 
  • Deliver public services better; and 
  • Meet major environmental and climate change challenges.

My challenge to you all is to work with me and my colleagues to deliver the solutions to take this country forward with momentum, endurance, and unity.  Engagement with the National Iwi Chairs Forum and Te Tai Kaha, Iwi and Māori organisations, will continue with additional drivers and priorities. 

I expect Te Puni Kōkiri and other entities to step-up to this challenge now – we can’t hesitate in this mission. It won’t be easy. But we will do this together because we believe in our identity, our innovation, our people and our country. 

My promise to you, as it was to my uncles and aunties, parents, my wife Ariana and our tamariki, is to be the best Māori and New Zealander I can be, and work smarter and harder for you and our country.

Kia mau, kia ita, ita ita mau tonu.