Finance Minister Grant Robertson; his Budget next week will be built around a Maori framework

Treasury is adopting a specific Maori framework called He Ara Waiora. in the preparation of next week’s Budget.

The idea is not new.

Treasury has been working on this since 2018, when it began to develop the living standards framework.

“Although the Living Standards Framework draws heavily from leading international efforts such as the OECD’s Better Life Index, we think we can do more to ensure that our approach is distinct to our own place and our own culture,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said yesterday.

“For Budget 2021 alignment to the He Ara Waiora concepts and principles were considered, not just for the initiatives that are focused on Māori, but at a much broader level.

“This is a new development, and one that we want to get right before we embed it further in decision-making in the budget process, but it is my intention that future Budgets will see our own Aotearoa New Zealand version of wellbeing take shape.”

In a 2018 report Treasury said He Ara Waiora had particular relevance to taxation policy.

“It was recognised that taxation is one of the most direct expressions of Crown authority (the ability to collect money from individuals and re-distribute it for notions of the collective good) and that, as such, it should be exercised in such a way as to best reflect the Treaty partnership,” it said.

In a post published on the Treasury website last week, the department says He Ara Waiora is intended to have three ends; Wairua (spirit) is at the centre to reflect that it is the foundation or source of wellbeing; Te Taiao(the natural world – the environment), is paramount and inextricably linked with human wellbeing and Te Ira Tangata (the human domain) encapsulates human activities and relationships.

But the webpage says Treasury is at an early stage of its journey in piloting the application of He Ara Waiora in a range of policy issues.

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“Lifting living standards for all New Zealanders is the Treasury’s vision.,” it says.

“He Ara Waiora can help us to interweave and embed Te Ao Māori perspectives in our policy advice with integrity.

“A summary of He Ara Waiora on a single A3 page is being produced and will soon be available from this page.”

He Ara Waiora is part of the “wellbeing” aspect of the Budget.

Robertson said yesterday that one of the changes that had been made to the Public Finance Act was that the Minister of Finance must set out the wellbeing objectives that would l guide the Government’s Budget decisions.

He said those decisions for Budget 2021 were: 

  • Securing a Just Transition as we shift to a low-emissions economy
  • Lifting productivity and enabling all New Zealanders to benefit from the Future of Work
  • Lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities,
  • Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing, and
  • Supporting Physical and Mental Wellbeing for all New Zealanders and keeping COVID-19 out of our communities.

But Robertson singled out three priority areas for the Government.

“Our three core goals for this term of government are continuing to keep New Zealanders safe from COVID 19, accelerating our recovery and taking on the foundational challenges in our economy and society, in particular, housing affordability, climate change and child wellbeing,” he said.

Robertson will be presenting his Budget against a much more optimistic background than he did last year when we were in the middle of Covid. The country had come out of the nationwide Level Three lockdown only the day before the Budget.

Westpac’s weekly economic commentary yesterday said the economy had come through the ‘tourist-less summer’ with employment conditions relatively intact.

“And a range of other recent indicators suggest some solid momentum as we head into the middle of the year,” the bank said.

ASB senior economist Mike Jones said an export boom was impacting the New Zealand economy.

“The steadying in the global economy is bolstering demand for commodities generally, including our own export commodities,” he said.

“In fact, there’s something of an export price boom underway.

.Global prices are holding around the highest level seen for seven years.

“The income windfall for NZ’s agriculturally-exposed regions is providing the foundation upon which NZ’s economic recovery is being built.

“Against this backdrop, confidence in the economic upturn is growing.”

This is all music to a Finance Minister’s ears.

“Our better than expected economic recovery does provide us with more options,” he said in his Auckland speech.

“There will be a careful balance here too.

“There is a bit more space in our operating and capital allowances to support the recovery in line with the approach that I have outlined today – focused on the areas of where we can accelerate progress and in tackling our long term challenges.

“At the same time, there is some more scope to keep a lid on debt and look towards a faster reduction in that debt once the recovery is secure.

“In our view, an investment-focused recovery that supports all New Zealanders is the way to ensure that our finances remain sustainable.

“It is also the way in which the Government will continue to tackle the long-standing issues that we were elected to address.”

We will know the details on Thursday week.