Mounting debt and financial insecurity is the No 1 issue Māori are concerned with according to the National Māori Authority, Ngā Ngaru.

Like many New Zealanders, Māori struggle with the changing times and there is a high degree of uncertainty when it comes to social and economic issues.

With this in mind, the National Māori Authority surveyed 800 Māori with 781 participants responding.

Authority chairman and New Zealand Māori Council executive director Matthew Tukaki said although Māori were worried about a number of things they remained hopeful.


"We wanted to know what keeps our people up at night and the answers might just shock a lot of non-Māori but will make a lot of sense to Māori."

For 26 per cent of those surveyed, mounting debt and financial security was the top concern.

Tukaki said Māori were concerned about the cost of living increasing but not having wages that reflected this increase.

"Generally Māori are more likely to be involved in the low skilled and low wage growth side of the economy.

"Many expressed a concern that they were often forced to borrow money from whānau and friends to keep above their heads above water while others have turned to high-interest pay-day lender-type organisations."

Housing affordability and homelessness were the second highest concerns for those surveyed.

Tukaki said many Māori were concerned about being able to step on to the home-ownership ladder which carried to their tamariki and mokopuna.

He said some Māori could not reconcile that New Zealand embraced overseas investors entering the housing market and yet Māori could barely remain on a "level playing field".


"In addition, those who rent cannot see a way out and continue to be frustrated by Housing New Zealand and landlords. Either not enough stock or the continuous struggle with rental affordability."

The state of rivers and lakes and a general concern for the whenua were also noted.

Tukaki said Māori felt angered by the state of the waterways that were now too polluted and, in some cases, too dangerous to wade.

"Māori remain concerned that they feel not enough is being done to arrest the pollution or target those who are taking advantage of the resources."

In early December last year, Te Arawa Lakes Trust opposed plans to discharge treated wastewater into Lake Rotorua.

It was a blow for the Rotorua Lakes Council which had worked on the $37 million wastewater upgrade since 2015.

However, the trust backed concerns of local hapū who said Lake Rotorua was a "taonga not toilet".

Trust chairman Sir Toby Curtis previously told Rotorua Daily Post: "The trust supports the upgrade of the wastewater plant and the method of treating the
wastewater. However, we cannot support the discharge of this water into Te Arikiroa
Channel and Lake Rotorua."

The number of Māori children in state care and in prison and the rising suicide rate and mental health system were also top concerns for people surveyed.

But Tutaki said Māori did see 2019 as an opportunity for a resurgence and better representation of the language and culture.

He believed the challenge faced by Māori was the lack of representation at the table when it came to the co-design of services and policies.

"The truth is that until Māori are either in control of the services being delivered to them, are involved in co-design or leading the service implementation then we will continue to struggle to get ahead."

Rotorua Lakes councillor Trevor Maxwell believes concerns will be solved from a strong loving whānau environment. Photo / File
Rotorua Lakes councillor Trevor Maxwell believes concerns will be solved from a strong loving whānau environment. Photo / File

Councillor Trevor Maxwell was not surprised by the survey results but hoped the results would be an indicator that things had improved for Māori.

He said Māori statistics weren't always pretty but he believed if all Māori were united as a family they would see improvements in those concerns.

"If the whānau were strong, children were getting good education, dad employed, those things that scored highly in that survey, like financial insecurity, would see a huge improvement."

He said the biggest concerns for himself was the number of Māori in prison and the suicide and mental health rates.

He wished there were more programmes in Rotorua that supported people who had come out of prison which he believed would positively impact mental health, suicide and employment statistics.

The survey results and data will be published in a broader document called Maori Affairs: what the people say this month and will be sent to all ministers and heads of government departments.