Māori members of TEU Te Hautū Kahurangi welcome the Budget 2021 announcements of Government investment into three areas of tertiary education, but questions remain around how funds will be allocated, and whether investment will extend to retaining kaimahi Māori in the face of cuts. Te Uepū Māori members welcome:

1. Vocational educational

$279.5m to support vocational educational organisations.

2. Equity Funding for ākonga Māori

$18m in 2021/22 for improving the fairness and reach of Equity Funding which supports tertiary education organisations to improve access, participation, and achievement of Māori.

3. Wānanga

$32.3 m for continued support to the Wānanga Sector. This initiative will continue support for wānanga to undertake research and educational delivery that protects and advances mātauranga Māori.

Improved investment in ākonga Māori is commendable, but we must see this flow through to kaimahi Māori. Our regions have seen major cuts in the provision of vocational education, with Tai Tokerau Wānanga | NorthTec, and Te Aho a Māui | EIT, as recent examples where programmes have and continue to be cut along with jobs.  

Investing in tertiary education in the Taitokerau, Tairāwhiti, and other areas of low socio-economic but high Māori demographics, where our ākonga Māori and kaimahi Māori live, learn, and mahi, will require a similar investment in staffing.

Budget 2021 also states, ‘Māori, Pacific, and Asian New Zealanders were more likely to report experiencing discrimination in the past 12 months than the general population’. This further supports our ask for the flow through of funding to kaimahi Māori.

Equity funding for TEOs to support ākonga Māori  to improve access, participation, and achievement is also admirable. It is great to see ‘access’ and ‘participation’ specifically mentioned, as these two areas are still problematic for many ākonga Māori, and the Tertiary Education Strategy only refers to the ‘success’ of ākonga Māori. The questions, however, are:

1. Where in the tertiary sector will the $18m (increasing to $67m in 2022/23, and $97m in 2023/24) be allocated?

2. How will the investment be implemented and monitored so that it will improve the education outcomes and wellbeing of ākonga Māori?

We do not want a repeat of the Equity Funding (formerly Special Supplement Funding) in the late 1990s where many institutions simply absorbed the funds into their existing budget, and/or utilised equity funding to pilot new initiatives and programmes, but failed to centrally fund them when they succeeded.

The funding for Wānanga goes part way to acknowledging and validating Mātauranga Māori and Kaupapa Māori equally to other knowledge systems, however, more investment is needed. Mātauranga Māori is taught across the whole tertiary education sector – including polytechnics and universities – and embedded in most, if not all, disciplines. There are therefore opportunities for all-of-sector –  wānanga, polytechnics, and universities – to co-design and undertake research and educational delivery that protects, advances, and validates Mātauranga Māori.

Finally, recognition that Budget 2021 introduces a Te Ao Māori view of wellbeing through ‘He Ara Waiora’ is important as it not only builds on work from the previous two budgets – by continuing the application of the Living Standards Framework – but it also aligns to and further elevates the abovementioned investment into Mātauranga Māori. One question, however is: what funding has been invested into resourcing He Ara Waiora?

Moving forward, we will need to see greater clarity around these key questions if we are to better meet the needs of Māori - ākonga, kaimahi, hapū, iwi and hapori - and if Budget 2021 is to deliver on its priorities.