30 Jun 2010

Maori agribusiness trust to be resurrected - TPK boss

8:47 am on 30 June 2010

Work will begin soon to salvage the beleaguered Tekau Plus project, which aims to double exports by Maori businesses.

The $3 million agribusiness scheme was suspended in November last year, after a value for money review found few benefits for exporters from the $1.5 million spent so far.

It found the scheme was poorly governed, with poor management of conflicts of interest.

Set up in late 2007, the aim of the Te Puni Kokiri-commissioned project was to get Maori agribusinesses exporting goods worth up to $10 million within 10 years.

But the review found the greatest benefit of the scheme went to a subsidiary of the Federation of Maori Authorities, Fomana, which operates the scheme, rather than to Maori exporters.

It recommended a complete overhaul of the project's governance, which Te Puni Kokiri chief executive Leith Comer says is now underway.

Mr Comer says he accepts responsibility for the poor management of the scheme, which will be resurrected with better structures and accountability for the money spent.

He says an independent assessor will work alongside the three agencies that manage the project, to put it on a sound footing.

Tekau defended

Paul Morgan, managing director of Fomana Capital and a former board member of Tekau Plus, told Morning Report the review was incorrect when it said $1 million had gone to the organisation managing the scheme.

He says the scheme was only two years into what was supposed to be a 10-year project, and needed more time to achieve its goals.

A Hamilton manufacturer, Hayden Pohio, says his involvement in the project led to his first export order of manuka honey bars to the United States.

Tekau Plus board member Richard Jones says it's hard to avoid conflicts of interest given the tiny number of Maori companies.

The scheme's Maori Trustee, John Paki, says the project met all its contract requirements, as outlined by Te Puni Kokiri.

He doesn't accept the report's findings and adds the review had accepted that value had been delivered in less tangible forms, in terms of contacts, experience and networks.