The Māori Party want a quarter of all Government Covid-19 recovery projects guaranteed to support to Māori, saying the pandemic has highlighted "major racism and inequity" in the country.
Co-leaders John Tamihere and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer announced their party's flagship election policy Whānau First today at the party's national campaign launch at Hoani Waititi Marae, in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland.
The policy, modelled off affirmative action programmes overseas, demands Māori equity and equality in the Covid-19 economic recovery to help reverse "decades of discrimination and disadvantage".
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"The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted major racism and inequity that impacts on
wellbeing and the ability to feed our whānau," Tamihere said.
"The evidence for this across the whole of government is best identified by our
unemployment status in our own country."
Before the lockdown the Māori unemployment rate was about 8 per cent, double the national rate of four, and experts say Māori will be harder hit as the economy takes a dip.
"We cannot tolerate a post-Covid environment that makes our whānau lives worse than they were pre-Covid," Tamihere said.
With no Government Māori pandemic response plan, it was Māori leadership across the country that stood up and filled the gap, led by hapū, iwi and Whānau Ora collectives, he said.
"Our own mana motuhake systems proved themselves."
This included iwi-led checkpoints to help stop the spread of the virus and inform the population, one of those led by Ngarewa-Packer, of Ngāti Ruanui.
"Māori as tangata whenua demand that our right to equality and equity be applied in all post-Covid recovery programming and funding," she said.
"If we are to ensure the Covid-19 recovery period improves the situation for our people rather than worsens it, then it's essential that we stop Government's systemic racism and put in place policies that put our Whānau First.
"Māori must be guaranteed resources for Māori recovery, we cannot go backwards to how we were living pre-Covid - that is not an option for our whānau, too many of whom are struggling just to survive."
The policy would mean a quarter of all Government funding for projects over the next two years would be delivered through the Māori workforce, businesses and organisations.
It would also guarantee a quarter of all Government projects - particularly those prioritised through the fast-track consenting process - would be Māori-led recovery projects and business recovery initiatives that partner with hapū, iwi and Māori organisations and Māori-led businesses.
In policy documents, the party acknowledges the policies as "affirmative action", but argues it should not be seen as "reverse racism", rather a response to racism.
"[Affirmative action] arose out of the failure of governments around the world to meet their obligations to indigenous peoples.
"It is the expression of our people's right to dignity. It is also asserting our Te Tiriti rights to equal citizenship.
"It is about reversing decades of discrimination disadvantage."
The party says it could also demand 50 per cent - "or more" - but 25 per cent was seen as "fair and just".
The policy also emphasised all Covid-19 recovery bodies reflect the Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi relationship in their structure and membership.
"Covid-19 recovery projects must enhance the mana o te whenua, the mana o te wai, mana o te moana and protect wāhi tapu, rights and interests of natural environment.
"We are 180 years into the relationship and the promises made have not been
"Te Tiriti o Waitangi guarantees Māori the rights to decision-making over our own
affairs, and to work in an equal, honourable relationship with the Crown."
The campaign launch comes as kaupapa Māori political rival Mana Movement, led by former Māori Pārty member Hone Harawira, throws its weight behind the party.
In a live-stream conversation with Tamihere on social media, Harawira said Mana would not be standing any candidates in the 2020 election, and would be promoting Māori Party candidates.