13 Feb 2020

Te Puni Kōkiri: Some Whānau Ora money sits with other agencies

7:46 am on 13 February 2020

Te Puni Kōkiri - the Ministry of Māori Development - has confirmed to Māori MPs that money earmarked for Whanau Ora services will sit within other government agencies.

Dame Tariana Turia

Dame Tariana Turia created the policy when she was in Parliament. Photo: RNZ

It backs up concerns held by prominent Māori leaders, including Dame Tariana Turia, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Dame Naida Glavish, Lady Tureiti Moxon and Merepeka-Raukawa Tait.

The group has taken an urgent case to the Waitangi Tribunal over concerns that new funding for Whānau Ora services is being directed to government-led projects.

Last night, they had a meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, which they said was constructive and promising.

Clamaint and Whānau Ora North Island commissioning chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said it was a full and frank discussion.

"We just said that we can do more, but we need the support from the government," she said.

"And we need to know that the government does value the work that we do, and if that is the case, then fund us to do more because we have to do more.

"We have been taking the Minister of Whānau Ora to task when he decides to redirect Whānau Ora funding to other organisations."

In the 2019 Budget, Whānau Ora received an $80m funding boost over four years.

But problems arose when the three agencies who commission Whānau Ora services around the country realised they were only allocated $10 million of that so far.

About $12m was set to go to Te Puni Kōkiri to manage and expand Whānau Ora.

On top of the $80 million boost directed to Whānau Ora, an extra $35m was secured in a joint bid with Corrections to trial a Whānau Ora service for families of inmates, Paiheretia Te Muka Tāngata.

But Dame Tariana, who created the policy when she co-lead the Māori Party, said government agencies, such as Corrections already had large budget pools to draw their services from.

She said new money earmarked for Whānau Ora should be directed to the commissioning agencies that were already doing good work.

"It's the only policy in government which is successful for Māori people," she said.

"Now why wouldn't you continue to fund it and continue to fund it in a way where Māori are able to make a difference for themselves."

Today, Te Puni Kōkiri reported back to the Māori affairs select committee in Parliament.

Chief executive David Samuels said that Te Puni Kōkiri's job was to make sure the Whānau Ora funds were being spent in the right way, and he said they were.

Samuels said $2m has been directed to localised commissioning agencies.

"My understanding of what that is intended to do is to ensure that Whānau Ora can go out to the community through multiple channels, not just through the commissioning agencies," he said.

However, he also acknowledged Whānau Ora money would sit within other government agencies.

"With regards to other money in Whānau Ora, some of that has gone to other agencies to deliver on Whānau Ora and that is being developed.

"And that is because the core function that that money is designed to support resides in those agencies."

Whanau Ora Minister Peeni Henare rejected that and was looking into that statement.

In the past, he has defended the $12m funding for Te Puni Kōkiri, saying the extra departmental spend was natural when the funding pool grew.

Henare said spending on a new Whānau Ora initiative with Corrections did not come out of the $80 million boost he secured for Whānau Ora.

"The partnership with Corrections allows us in the Whānau Ora space to actually work in the Corrections space, where we have never been before," he said.

"Those who provide that service will be NGO's, Whānau Ora providers... we have never said that Corrections will be either administering or holding that money."

He said there had been miscommunication, and said last night's meeting was a positive step towards everyone getting on the same page.

A spokesperson for Jacinda Ardern said the meeting was constructive and the group committed to work together to ensure the strongest possible future for Whānau Ora.

But the claimants have kept their Waitangi Tribunal claim on the table.

Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi said that, while no real decisions were made at the hui - it was a promising start.

"There's a lot of steps to be taken to be considered by us and by her - at least she was listening and we were listening to her," she said.

"Rather than sort of turning our backs or government turning their backs on us.

"It was a very sort of helpful meeting both I think for her and for us."

Minister Henare was tasked with working with the claimants to confirm the next steps.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said news that a four-year-old boy had been badly beaten at his home in Hastings a fortnight ago reiterated how urgently vulnerable whānau need support.

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