The highlights for Māori of Grant Robertson's fourth Budget are compelling. As we learnt with his 2019 "Wellbeing" Budget, the finance minister understands a good spectacle.
Judith Collins also understands a spectacle, but unfortunately for her and her supporters they had been promising a show. A big, divisive one where Māori were having their own separate house of Parliament and full control of their destinies.
The announced $1 billion for Māori-specific health, housing, and education, could change thousands of lives significantly. But it doesn't conclusively answer the question whether the initiatives will be done with Māori or imposed on them.
The show National had promised never came.
The $242.8 million for Māori health initiatives, includes set-up costs for the proposed new Māori Health Authority, the details of which remain completely unknown to senior health leaders beyond Health Minister Andrew Little himself, as does the final form the authority will take.
It's unimaginable that the major restructures to the district health boards now proposed would have been risked under former Health Minister David Clark. With the quietly performing Andrew Little at the helm, the risk of a KiwiBuild style disaster seems low, yet without details it is hard to call this an unmitigated success.
There is targeted funding of $350m for "infrastructure to enable housing for Māori" comes out of the larger pool of $3.8b in the Housing Acceleration Fund. It is about as vague a Budget promise as imaginable.
Whānau Ora, which the Prime Minister herself has pointed to as a flagship example of Crown-Māori partnership for social services delivery, developed under Collins' National predecessors, gets no extra funding. Here at least the message to Māori seems to be - the issues you face are important, be hopeful, but the solutions will come from Wellington.
This is despite calls by the Children's Commissioner and the Welfare Expert Advisory Group to increase funding for Māori children's social services.
At the furthest end of the scale Oranga Tamariki, which has been the focus of debates about greater Māori involvement, had its funding increased by around 2.5 per cent to separate itself operationally from the Ministry of Social Development - a drop in the bucket compared to the sums for other departmental restructures in this Budget.
Even Te Paati Māori leader Rawiri Waititi acknowledged what was needed was not necessarily more money, even as he noted the disparities in spending on Māori. It's a point well illustrated by the 2019 "Wellbeing" Budget.
Dubbed a "world-first" Budget tackling mental illness, family violence and child poverty", it was a masterclass in offering optimism and raising expectations without setting concrete targets.
At the time, Māori mental health statistics were amongst the worst in the OECD, and optimism had been lacking.
In April this year, Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson went public with his belief people struggling with mental health have gone backwards in recent years.
In the same month the Government announced a deal to hand $160 million in taxpayer dollars to Amazon in subsidies for yet more Lord Of The Rings content.
It is a Budget containing a clear decision on the issues which disproportionately affect Māori, made by Ardern and Robertson, to move away from targeted funding to reduce unemployment, where Māori suffered disproportionately in 2020, towards the return of a single service led by Wellington public servants.
Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni has held a portfolio of major interest to both traditional Labour voters and Māori with little incident, but the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has a highly fraught relationship with Māori historically that rebranding exercises have failed to exorcise.
Estimates like 109,000 families and whānau who will be better off once the boost to all core benefits is introduced, are hard to ignore.
As is the worry we are relying on a divisive agency to finally understand Māori after decades of abject failure and what could be categorised as "baby theft".
Budgets are presumptions by their nature, but a sense of "fool me once" is creeping into this Government's promises. If the clouds of KiwiBuild's failure and the withering of Whānau Ora hang over any "new money" for Māori housing and development, what remains?
For National, it is time to put the Don Brash playbook in archives and refocus on providing alternative policies rather than alternative histories. As polling and virtually all coverage of Budget Day have borne out, New Zealand is not the divided nation it was in 2004 during the Foreshore and Seabed Act debate.
This Budget has been a clear insight into one thing Jacinda Ardern and deputy Grant Robertson might not want to admit publicly: which ministers they trust. Senior ministers Sepuloni and Little have been entrusted with big jobs and significant public funds. For them, this is a huge vote of confidence and chance to shape the nation for decades.
Joining them in enjoying the full public support of the PM is Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta, who has proven a good cultural fit in diplomacy - something that shouldn't be shocking given her Kīngitanga whakapapa.
The political future of Minister for Whānau Ora and Mental Health Peeni Henare has been buoyed in the past by solid performances in Tāmaki Makaurau, but the failures are stacking up in Henare's portfolios and this year's Budget may have provided a ceiling to his aspirations.
This would be a harsh fate for Henare, but not one unknown to Māori ministers who preceded him. His recent rival for Tāmaki Makaurau, former Labour minister and radio host John Tamihere, is a textbook example of how quickly a political rise can turn into a fall.
Like Henare, this Budget has sunk any leadership ambitions Dr Shane Reti may have had.
Dr Reti - a general practitioner for 17 years and one of only two Māori in the party's caucus - has been relegated to clarifying and justifying Collins's own calls on health policy and Māori issues. Their similarities don't stop at having a bad Budget Day.
Both tāne share whakapapa to Ngāpuhi. Both have been asked by their parties to tow unpopular party lines around Māori issues. Both have had their stature diminished for doing so.
Both once had ascendant careers that are now looking grim; Judith Collins approval rating-level grim.
Who the true "winners" of this Budget are will take years to confirm, but the losers are clear today.
• Haimona Gray (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa) is a former public service communications manager and Māori health advocate.