Government cyclone response not an 'open cheque' - Willie Jackson

Cyclone Gabrielle damage in Hawke's Bay.

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson is concerned some iwi are dipping into settlement funds for disaster response, something he says is the Crown's responsibility.

However, he said the Government's response is not an "open cheque".

It comes as the Government today announced a $15 million short-term relief package for Māori communities devastated by Cyclone Gabrielle.

The package is also aimed at building hapori Māori resilience and preparedness for emergencies.

Asked what his view was of the Māori response to Cyclone Gabrielle and other recent weather events, Jackson said there had been "a magnificent response from our people".

He said this had occurred in many places, including Hastings, the East Coast and in Auckland.

"The thing with our people, and we're really proud of them, is that they just get in and do it."

He said local iwi would today meet with the Government and "put some robust questions" to it about funding.

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson

"As they must do — because the other side of it is we can't expect iwi to be using all their [Treaty] settlement money in terms of fixing problems that obviously are the Crown's responsibility.

"The state, the Government has obligations and some of the settlements… are not huge."

Asked if the Government would step in to assist damaged or destroyed marae, Jackson said Māori ministers would "advocate" for those marae.

"That is our obligation.

"At the same time, we have a process to get through, we need to have a stocktake. That's what we want to talk about with iwi, what marae have been damaged, what urupa, or cemeteries have been damaged.

"This is not about, I suppose, an open cheque."

He said it was about discussing the loss with Māori.

"Will we be supporting Māori in that area? Of course we will be, because there are some huge losses and we'll be advocating on our people's behalf."

Jackson said the package announced today for Māori communities was not late — having come after announcements of other packages — as Māori benefited from the other packages as well.

"We're only at the early start."

Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare was also asked if the Government would consider recognising marae and Māori formally in their role in civil defence.

Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare.

He said New Zealand's civil defence structure had been investigated in the past, and had recommended Māori and marae "continue to get support and find their voice as well as their leadership in the civil defence framework".

He said that work was started under his tenure as Civil Defence Minister, as well as under Kiritapu Allan's.

"Now it's our job to continue to support [Civil Defence] Minister [Kieran] McAnulty to make sure that for this civil defence framework, moving forward, that Māori are playing leadership roles, that Māori are recognised, as we've seen here on the marae, for the work that they do in the community during the [disaster] response.

"It's certainly a big part of the work we've got in front of us."


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