13 Apr 2021

Ministers confident no taxpayer money used in Māori Party donations

7:58 pm on 13 April 2021

Government ministers are confident no taxpayer money was caught up in donations to the Māori Party that have been referred to police for not being declared in time.

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Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

A donation of $50,000 from National Urban Māori Authority is one of three that have potentially breached Electoral Commission laws.

Any donation of more than $30,000 must be declared to the commission within 10 working days of it being received.

The National Urban Māori Authority (NUMA) is a registered charity which provides advocacy for four urban Māori authorities: Te Kohao Health in Kirikiriroa, Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust in West Auckland, Te Roopu Awhina ki Porirua and Manukau Urban Māori Authority.

Those organisations run health and social services which are funded, in part, by the North Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency.

The Ministry of Māori Development said no money from Whānau Ora was given directly to NUMA.

It monitors the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency's financial statements which are independently audited by KPMG.

It said there was no evidence funding was being used inappropriately.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said any questions about whether the donations broke Electoral laws must be referred to police, but it was her expectation that no government money would be spent on electoral donations.

Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare was confident no taxpayer money had been used to fund the Māori Party.

"All of the reports I've received on the money that's being spent and the outcomes we've achieved have been on the money and if there's any concerns by the police in the investigation then it will come through," he said.

Minister of Māori Development Willie Jackson, who chaired NUMA from 2004-2017, said that was the case when he was at the helm.

"I know how the organisation was set up and the last thing you want to be doing is giving away Whānau Ora money.

"They're not a recipient ... they distribute those contracts [and] the money goes amongst the different agencies so I'd be surprised if there was any Whānau Ora money mixed up at all".

He said he did not recall NUMA providing donations in the past.

"What NUMA does is their business and I'm disappointed they didn't give us any money," Jackson said.

NUMA chairperson Lady Tureiti Moxon did not comment, citing the on-going police investigation.

NUMA has previously received funding from Whānau Ora.

As a shareholder of the North Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency it received a dividend in 2015/16 and 2016/17, which was paid out from "incentive payments".

Those payments were from the government for the agency meeting specific performance targets.

However, they have since been scrapped.

The other Māori Party donations under investigation

One of the other two donations being investigated is from Māori Party vice-president John Tamihere, who made a donation totalling $158,000.

There is also a $120,000 donation from Aotearoa Te Kahu company.

Its sole shareholder is a trustee service owned by Wellington law firm Morrison Kent Lawyers.

Māori Party president Che Wilson said questions about where the donation came from needed to be directed to Tamihere or the company.

RNZ has asked Tamihere if he knows who the donors are from Aotearoa Te Kahu.

He is not making comment until after the police inquiry is completed.

National party donation also being questioned

The Electoral Commission has asked for a 'please explain' from the National Party about the late filing of a donation totalling $35,000.

Between May and November last year, Garth Barfoot made four donations to the party but it was only declared to the commission at the end of last month.

A spokesperson for the commission said they would look at each case and all the circumstances involved before making a decision about whether it should be referred to police.

This includes whether the amount was over the threshold, when it came to light, and whether the party has filed late returns in the past.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow told reporters he had no comment to make about the donation and referred questions to the commission.