Advancing Māori Interests in Tāmaki Makaurau

14 October 2019

Board Chairman, David Taipari, takes stock of the last three years and reflects on pushing Māori interests to the forefront at Auckland Council where the future direction of New Zealand’s largest and most prosperous region, and home to Aotearoa’s largest and growing urban Māori youth population, is determined.

That future, David Taipari says, is one where Māori, in particular younger Māori, will have accelerating influence throughout the region; economically, culturally, socially and environmentally.

By 2036, the Māori population in Auckland is projected to reach over 200,000 with more than half under the age of 25 and a third of these under the age of 15 years.  With such numbers, Mr Taipari says outcomes for Māori in the region matter to everyone who lives here and to the wider economy.

“It is why the Board’s focus is on providing Council with high-quality advice and information based on sound research from a Te Ao Māori perspective.  Decisions taken affecting the future of Auckland must include the voice of Māori so that we can keep moving the dial forward for our people in order that they can play their part and share in building a prosperous Auckland for the future.

“Our Board commissioned research by leading economists, NZIER, that shows the Māori economy in Tāmaki Makaurau is substantial.  At around $4 billion of GDP with $23 billion of assets and growing at a slightly faster rate than the Auckland economy as a whole, the future is one of enormous potential.

“As a way of unlocking this potential, we know that a focus on improving Auckland Māori participation rates in study, work and entrepreneurship will deliver significant economic benefts to not only Māori, but the whole region.

“Our research also shows that if Auckland Māori employment rates are raised to the same level as employment rates for non-Māori, employment would increase by around 19 percent.  This would translate to roughly 12,000 more Auckland Māori in work and a corresponding decrease in unemployment.

And Mr Taipari says if Māori income distribution mirrored the lift in employment, the research shows total personal incomes for Māori in Auckland could increase by 16 percent, or around $1 billion per annum.

“The Board’s challenge to Auckland Council, and the organisations it controls, is to ensure that an awareness of Te Ao Māori and the issues and the opportunities it presents for Auckland are factored into Council planning, decision-making and service delivery.

“The fact is, the big issues that face all Aucklanders: transport, the economy, jobs, the environment, housing and health, all have a disporportionate negative impact on the lives of Māori compared to the rest of Auckland’s population.  This is why the Board’s role as advocate on these issues is more important than it has ever been.

“In 2018, the Board undertook work on the socio-economic impacts of the regional fuel tax on low-income Auckland households, many of which are Māori households in the south and the west.  We found that Auckland Council and central government’s policy development justifying the fuel tax’s introduction did not adequately consider the equity impacts on Māori on lower incomes who are paying a disproportionate amount of their income on fuel compared to other vehichle-owning Aucklanders.

“We continue to advocate to Council and government for solutions to mitigate and reduce the impact of costly fuel for Māori who are dependent on older and less fuel efficient vehicles to get them to and from work.”

“This year we also undertook research into whether Auckland public transport is affordable for Māori.  The results show travel costs for buses and trains for low-income whānau who live outside the city centre is getting more expensive.  We believe a more equitable approach to fare policy is to acknowledge that people who live further out from the city centre tend to have less ability to pay higher fares.

“As with the regional fuel tax, the Board is advocating more affordable public transport for those on lower incomes so that travel across the city for work or play is within reach; especially for our rangatahi who are largely dependent on public transport to get around.

Mr Taipari says while much of the Board’s mahi is undertaken in open committee and fora where public participation is mostly welcomed, the average Aucklander is probably unaware Council and the Board have a plan for advancing Māori interests in the region.

“In that sense the Board is not so much looking for recognition of itself.  What’s important to us are tangible outcomes.  Aucklanders and visitors to the region need to be able to experience the unique Māori identity of Tāmaki Makaurau in an environment that is cared for and protected.  We are heading in the right direction.  Our advocacy for the adoption of a region-wide Te Reo policy has seen the introduction of Māori street signage across Auckland and the use of Te Reo on the city’s buses and trains.  The popular and uniquely Māori tourism and cultural experiences offered by Māori enterprise across the region are other tangible expressions of support for Māori business and innovation.  We supported the Council in its adoption of the Climate Emergency last year, but Council needs to ensure specific actions flow from the emergency declaration and the Board is committed to monitoring that.

“Such advances in making Auckland more visibly and culturally Māori and speaking truth to power with a strong, representative, Māori voice underpin what we stand for.  The challenge for the incoming Board and for future Board’s is to continue to advocate for the interests of Māori in this region, so that everyone in Tāmaki Makaurau can share in the rewards this abundant region with its uniquely Māori influence has to offer,” David Taipari says.