Sunday, July 3, 2016

Mike Butler: Probing Whanau Ora trough

Why did it take Labour MPs Nanaia Mahuta and Kelvin Davis so long to question the Whanau Ora one-stop welfare scheme? Both MPs this week said it was not good enough that, six years after its launch, there has been no detailed public progress report.(1)

However, John Tamihere , the chief executive of Whanau Ora commissioning agency Te Pou Matakana, which hands out the money, disagrees.

He said he and Te Pou Matakana chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait had provided a full briefing to the Labour caucus last year.

The best that Maori Development Minister, Te Ururoa Flavell, could say was that he had talked to families who told him Whanau Ora had made a real difference in their lives.

Last year, Auditor General Lyn Provost said it was difficult to work out what the scheme has achieved while noting that in the first four years $40-million was swallowed up in administration.

Earlier, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters found evidence of how the trough has been accessed.

He said that Otaki’s Rahui Rugby and Sports Club received $60,000 in 2011 to “undertake whanau development research” on resilience, “whanau connectedness” and community leadership in a scheme that Peters said was proof that the Whanau Ora scheme was a “bro-ocracy”. (2).

The Dominion Post newspaper revealed how whanau contracts operated.

One $5000 contract between Te Puni Kokiri and an unnamed Hawke’s Bay whanau of 20 members said that a hui to finalise “spiritual balance” and “family development” would pay $500 each for two facilitators, $400 for a venue, $1000 for a hangi, $600 for a chef, a $500 administration fee, $300 for travel, and $1200 for resources. The agreement was signed on January 12, 2012, with $4000 paid up front in April. The final $1000 would be paid when the whanau plans were completed at the end of June. (3)

The criminal underbelly spotted an opportunity in Whanau Ora.

Dunedin Mongrel Mob members posing as the We Against Violence charitable trust were among 10 arrested in May 2012 after $100,000 worth of cannabis was seized, and misuse of government funding was alleged.

Intercepted phone calls showed that gangs regarded Whanau Ora as a model to access funding. One Dunedin person jailed for four years for dishonestly converting $20,000 of trust money, conspiring to sell cannabis and possessing cannabis for supply. (4)

These three examples give an indication of where nearly $300-million has gone since 2010. Here are the appropriations over seven years:

Budget 2010 - $29m

Budget 2011 – $43m

Budget 2012 – $49m

Budget 2013 – $53m

Budget 2014 – $52m

Budget 2015 – $54m

Budget 2016 – $73m

Whanau Ora was intended to help welfare recipients navigate their way around a fragmented social services set-up.

The latest benefit data sheets show that Maori demand for jobseeker support has increased every year since 2011 and is ahead of increases by Pacific Island and other ethnicities while such demand from all others has decreased. (5)

Maori demand for sole-parent support has decreased but not as much as decreases in such demand from all others. Demand by Pacific Island and other ethnicities show small increases. (6)

However, in the absence of any public report, the effect of the Whanau Ora scheme remains unknown, with remaining suspicion that it is the biggest trough in living memory.

One would expect a prudent Minister of Finance to expect some sort of accountability for this massive outflow of funds.

Surely Bill English would question the apparent doling out of funds for Maori families to get together – at $5000 a party.


1.Whanau Ora not living up to promise,
2. Peters keeps up attack on Whanau Ora payouts, The Dominion Post, May 31, 2012.
3. Thousands spent of whanau gatherings, The Dominion Post, April 9, 2012.
4. Whanau Ora money used by gang, Stuff, November 15, 2012.
5.Jobseeker support March 2016 quarter
6. Sole parent support March 2016 quarter


Ray S said...

Dont hold your breath waiting for the govt. to demand accountability for this.
Anybody who questions of maori with regard to what is happening to taxpayer money is surely labelled racist. Aside from that, it appears that the money is not helping at all. The rort continues, $70+ million budgeted for this year, criminal.

Barry said...

I agree with Ray S.

Unknown said...

40 million for administration says it all, not to mention the drug money and whatever else that has been stolen from the coffers that we don't yet know about. Talk about letting kids loose in a candie store, these no good thieves will consume everything and everyone that stands before them, whilst our gutless and traitorous politicians feather their own nests at the expense of the hard done by tax payer. How well off would NZ be if we stopped the billions of dollars being wasted on this kind of rubbish.
Billions of dollars over the last few years that could have gone to Health, Education, infrastructure and housing. But no, our politicians don't care about those things, they're only interested in appeasing the racists and to hell with the expense,it appears that as long as the racist waitangi tribunal are happy, the rest of us can go to hell.

Anonymous said...

Noel said, don't know if anyone else has noticed it , but there is a big increase in maori across the board,especially on govt TV/radio , newspapers,magazines etc,it seems that every news item, story has to have a special mention on maori intervoven in the article, usually infering how great they are,and how disadvantaged they are. This latest rort about the Dunedin City Council and rates remission for maori only,makes me wonder who dreams up these things, is there a group of people constantly at goverments/councils pushing for this ??? No wonder we're called "smiling zombies" to put up with all this.