Māori in the Bay of Plenty have the highest unemployment rate in New Zealand and the figures look set to worsen as the fallout of Covid-19 continues to bite.
Figures obtained by NZME show the rate of unemployed Māori throughout the Bay of Plenty during the March quarter was 10.3 per cent, above the national Māori unemployment rate of 8.7. It is also more than double that of unemployed Europeans in the region at 3.9 per cent, which was 3.5 per cent nationally.
The Government figures come as an Infometrics report, commissioned by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, revealed the region was expected to experience a $776 million loss in earnings and 14,550 loss in jobs due to Covid-19.
The report stated Bay of Plenty's overall current unemployment rate of 4.3 per cent was expected to peak at 9.5 per cent by September 2021 and remain above 8 per cent until December 2023.
We are talking now about the new wave of unemployed, not those already on the books.
The report, released this week, stated the highest job losses for Māori in the Bay of Plenty would be in accommodation and food services (-1041 jobs), transport, postal and warehousing (-565 jobs) and retail and wholesale trade industries (-539 jobs).
Rotorua was expected to face a much more substantial hit due to the higher concentration of tourism activity reliant on international visitors still barred from the borders. The lack of tourism was also likely to result in the largest reduction in Māori employment, the report said.
Rotorua councillor and Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chairwoman Merepeka Raukawa-Tait echoed the concerns raised in the report. She said while many households had been impacted by Covid-19, Māori were likely to be far worse off.
"The unemployment figures for Māori are always higher than the general population and it will be the same now as more Māori lose jobs," she said.
Raukawa-Tait said Māori usually had larger families to feed and support and without jobs "they will be doing it extremely hard".
"We are talking now about the new wave of unemployed, not those already on the books," she said.
"Of real concern, and not just for Māori, are the mental and emotional health consequences arising from unemployment. Support must be provided for all
family members, not just the newly unemployed in the family."
Raukawa-Tait said unemployment affected everyone in the household. It was up to everyone to help provide support.
"Now is the time to reach out; talk, do a stocktake, plan and commit to take action. Start that conversation now, [be] someone they trust."
Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey said now was the time to turn attention to Aotearoa's economic recovery and Budget 2020's $50 billion focus on jobs was part of this.
"I am confident that investment in creating sustainable local jobs, growing apprenticeships, and supporting emerging industries, will back the Waiariki to defy all predictions and get back on our feet again faster than expected."
Coffey said he would work hard to make this happen and acknowledged the work of local iwi and Māori organisations already working on plans to redeploy workers who lost their jobs, capitalise on assets and adapt their businesses to best support their people.
"This is a very uncertain time, but for many Māori who live and work in jobs with uncertain futures, this is not unusual. I am proud to see the innovation and collaboration coming through amongst our Māori community leaders."
Bay of Plenty Regional Council chairman Doug Leeder said the data and insight produced in the report would help local councils, industry bodies, iwi and other organisations to build effective recovery programmes based on a "shared understanding of where the greatest impacts, more jobs and opportunities for success will be".
"The value of a report like this is that it provides insight into where we should be focusing our energy and resources to cushion the economic blow for our local communities. As always, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it and this will help us gain better insights so we can work towards a robust and sustainable recovery accordingly."
Leeder said the regional council was already working with a range of organisations to ensure the Bay led the way to do things differently.
"These reports help to build a deeper understanding of the challenges we face and a baseline on which to plan our strong regional economic recovery."
Labour market and household statistics senior manager Sean Broughton said while the March quarter figures were reliable, the impact of Covid-19 on the labour market would be clearer next month.
Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley could not be reached yesterday but in a previous story said it was important to support local and move away from reliance on other countries.
To encourage people to support Māori-owned businesses and enterprises post Covid-19, Ngāi Te Rangi has been pointing people in the direction of these businesses using its Facebook page.
In Rotorua, the Tautoko Facebook page was started by Rawiri Bhana when he saw how Covid-19 had affected friends and family. Its aim is to encourage support for Māori-owned business and enterprise after Covid-19.