Our world has changed. While it is too early to know with any certainty what the full impact of this crisis will be on Māori, what we can surmise is that the near total shutdown of our economy will have a deep and devastating impact on our Māori communities. The $50 billion Māori economy is now worth $40 billion. Māori unemployment will rise drastically. Iwi organisations and land trusts that are heavily invested in tourism, forestry and international equities are facing massive reductions in their balance sheets. This will have flow on effects to their distributions back to iwi members and shareholders, reducing the impact of the social programmes that many have implemented over the years to support the realisation of Māori aspirations.
And the impact is far greater than can be stated in dollar terms or unemployment statistics. The impact on our whānau and hapū from isolation is immense and a return to the normal “economic” life after lockdown is only going to exacerbate that impact. That is why, when we come out of lockdown, we should not go back to business as usual. When we emerge from lockdown we need to do so in a way that reflects the importance of those who carried us through these weeks and months, many of them struggling to survive on minimum wage, and that reflects the need to be kind and compassionate to those whose inequities were laid bare for all to see during this time.
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