OPINION: Maihi Ka Ora – The National Māori Housing Strategy 2021-2051 was launched last week by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
It was written in partnership with Te Puni Kōkiri, with the support of the National Iwi Chairs Forum, some hapū and iwi, and Te Matapihi he tirohanga mō te Iwi Trust, and developed through Maihi Whare Wānanga.
The strategy takes a systems thinking approach, acknowledging the complexity of our housing system, our system failures, and therefore the range of responses required.
It’s long range, with a life span of 30 years intended to live well beyond any political changes. Critically, there are specific provisions for ongoing monitoring and evaluation, and formal review every three years.
It’s impossible to entirely future proof long-range strategies given our electoral cycle, but the current government has made a serious attempt at embedding Maihi Ka Ora across government and the housing system more broadly.
In my view, this strategy is a game changer. The strategy, whilst not being a statutory document, critically refers to the articles, rather than the principles, of Te Tiriti.
It explicitly refers to the Government using its levers under Article One, to enable Māori-led solutions under Article Two, and, if these are achieved, works towards providing oriteranga/equity under Article Three.
There are six major components to the strategy: Māori-Crown partnerships, (Māori-led) local solutions, (Māori) housing supply, (Māori) housing support, (Māori) housing system, and (Māori) housing sustainability. All are anchored in Te Tiriti.
The Maihi Whare Wānanga model represents a Te Tiriti-based partnership, with Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti partners clearly named, with actions tagged.
It also has an inbuilt process to respond, review and reset. Essentially: Respond to current issues through new funding, legislation and policy; Review existing government funding priorities, legislation and funding through a Te Tiriti lens, with a focus on current Māori involvement across high level government decision-making processes; and finally, Reset, implementing new legislation, policy and processes that centre a Te Tiriti partnership.
Many will remember He Whare Āhuru He Oranga Tāngata – the Māori Housing Strategy. The strategy was introduced in 2014 under the National government, with the Māori Party as confidence and supply partner.
Despite originally being intended to run through to 2025, He Whare Āhuru has now been superseded by Maihi Ka Ora, the new Māori housing strategy.
It was not a perfect strategy, but it was one that Māori housing advocates, ministerial champions, hapū, iwi and housing providers fought for and contributed to.
The strategy, which sat within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, was not appropriately resourced. To my knowledge no resourcing or staff time was specifically allocated to its implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
In the 2014 document, priorities were set out for 2014-17, yet were not refreshed beyond this date. For the new strategy to be successful, it is critical that resourcing and dedicated staff be allocated to the implementation, monitoring and evaluation, review and refresh.
Hei aha, we are now in a very different space. The current government has demonstrated a commitment to funding Māori housing on parity with mainstream housing, as demonstrated through the May 2021 Budget announcement.
Maihi Ka Ora seems set to avoid the mistakes and omissions of the past, and clearly sets out the development of a detailed implementation programme and monitoring framework, and a cycle of review of the strategy every three years.
So what about the GPS? The Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Housing and Urban Development, which was launched the same day as Maihi Ka Ora provides clear direction to all government agencies across the housing system.
It has its legislative basis under Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities Act 2019. The GPS is intended to be a whole of system strategy, and is complemented by a range of other strategies, including Maihi Ka Ora, Government Policy Statement on Land Transport, The Disability Strategy and Disability Action Plan 2019-2023 and Better later life – He Oranga Kaumatua 2019 to 2034.
Māori housing researcher and landscape architect Jacqueline Paul’s (Ngāpuhi, Kahungunu, Tūwharetoa) recent master’s thesis He Rautaki Whakatauria Whare o Te Tiriti o Waitangi: Treaty-anchored Housing Strategies (Department of Land Economy, The University of Cambridge, July 2021), focuses on Te Tiriti-anchored housing strategies.
Her research, based on interviews with experts, recommends that current government strategies and plans should be strengthened to align with Te Tiriti.
At the time Paul’s research was undertaken, there was no national housing strategy. The GPS fills this gap: it is well-aligned with Maihi Ka Ora and is explicit in directions regarding genuine partnership under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Whilst the Maihi Ka Ora strategy rightly focuses on Māori, given the Government’s responsibilities under Te Tiriti, demographic inequities, as well as the persistent advocacy by the Māori housing sector Paul’s research shows that we also need to cast a Te Tiriti lens over all housing strategies and policies in Aotearoa.
Maihi Kā Ora and the Government Policy Statement on Housing and Urban Development both deliver on this expectation.