Living in cow sheds and tents on the beach is the "new norm" for dozens of families, says a Māori housing advocate who is welcoming new funding to address the crisis in this week's Budget.
The Government announced a $1.1 billion package for Māori yesterday, including $380m set aside to deliver 1000 papakāinga homes among other measures.
Alongside this, $350m had been secured in the Housing Acceleration Fund, targeted to investment in infrastructure to support Māori and iwi providers build homes for whānau Māori.
Willie Te Aho has worked in the area of iwi housing advocacy for more than 30 years, and said it was "brilliant" to see the area get this level of attention.
"It'll make a real difference to our most vulnerable."
Māori are disproportionately represented in the social housing register, and in emergency and transitional housing. More than two in five live in damp homes, and Māori are more likely to live in overcrowded homes.
Home ownership rates are also well below those for non-Māori.
In the east coast area of the North Island where Te Aho was based, there was a "hidden homeless", those without anywhere stable to live, but who were not even picked up by Government agencies.
"The Minister of Social Development and Housing and Urban Development came here and they saw 11 families living in cow sheds, families living in tents on beaches - 71 families just in my tribal area alone.
"We have all this hidden need, on top of those recognised as struggling and on the social housing register - over 500 in Gisborne alone.
"But for some they have become so apathetic they don't even register, and living in a cow shed, living in a tent on the beach, is the new norm."
Te Aho said they had plans to build 500 houses over the next four years in Tairāwhiti alone and would be putting up their hand for some funding assistance.
Moving forward, the key areas would be in building capacity, training, and streamlining the consenting processes, so they could scale up quickly.
Te Aho and other Māori health and housing advocates from across the motu had gathered at Te Puni Kokiri in Wellington on Friday to hear from the Māori ministers about the Budget.
Māori Council executive director Matthew Tukaki said he was "overwhelmingly pleased" with the Budget for Māori.
"When you add in health and benefit increases, you are looking at around a $3 billion to $4 billion boost for Māori."
In particular, Tukaki praised the target funding to establish the Māori Health Authority, which had nearly $100m set aside for its early stages, and $126m for commissioning.
"From July I am hoping the authority will get under way, because the alternative is that we fall away. It is imperative, a landmark opportunity to reverse everything from cardiovascular to diabetes. It is not about separatism it is just about good health."
Tukaki said he hoped the housing funding would help with addressing homelessness, and get kids and whānau out of motels.
Associate Māori Housing and Māori Health Minister Peeni Henare said the Budget had focused on the two key areas "confronting our people": housing and health.
Addressing criticism Whānau Ora missed out on any increases, Henare said last year's funding was designed to be spread over two years, and many of those were involved in health and housing anyway.
The $242m allocated to Māori health was "just a start", he said, echoing comments by Health Minister Andrew Little and Finance Minister Grant Robertson on Thursday.
"It will allow us to build a good whare but if we are to turn around the inequities it will take significant resources."
Te Arawhiti-Māori Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis said acquiring the funding had involved presenting "a good case" to Robertson.
"The fact Māori get over $1 billion for the first time is significant, and is testimony to the level of support from the Prime Minister and deputy Prime Minister."
Davis said it was interesting to compare the sum provided in a Budget, to the public outcry the same sum received in the 1990s when it was suggested as part of the "fiscal envelope" to settle all Treaty of Waitangi breaches.
Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson said each year they were after a big Budget.
"This is the best we have seen so far, but we'll see what happens next year."
During his speech Jackson acknowledged widespread praise the Māori Budget had received from Māoridom, including from at-times political "adversary" John Tamihere, who had "applauded" the targeted Māori spending in health and housing.
In attendance on Friday too was Dame Tariana Turia, who quit the Labour Party in 2004 over the foreshore and seabed debacle, forming Te Pāti Māori with Tā Pita Sharples.
Such was the level of support from those attending, Jackson joked about Turia: "You might not know, but she is thinking about joining the Labour Party."