Huata academy leaves creditors in lurch

By Isaac Davison

Wi Huata and his wife, Donna Awatere Huata. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today
Wi Huata and his wife, Donna Awatere Huata. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today

An international school run by the husband of disgraced former Act MP Donna Awatere Huata has gone into liquidation, leaving creditors and students in the lurch.

Wi Huata took over the Jireh International Academy in Queen St, central Auckland, in late 2008.

In July this year, the company was locked out of its premises, owing money to at least 23 known creditors.

Mr Huata and his wife were sentenced to jail in 2005 for defrauding a literacy programme for underprivileged children they had started. He and Ms Awatere Huata stole $80,000 from the programme. His jail term was suspended.

The amount he owes following the Jireh closure is not known, but the Inland Revenue Department has filed a claim for $175,000. A liquidation report shows some staff are owed wages and holiday pay.

A former employee, who asked not to be named, said she had left when she saw the college begin to struggle.

"It was not operating well. They were down to 15 students, which would never cover the ongoing costs. I'm not at all surprised it was liquidated."

Some staff members had waited more than two months for their wages and had not received holiday pay.

She said the 15 remaining students suffered the worst, because the college had not refunded their tuition fees.

Some courses at the academy, which specialised in teaching English, boatbuilding and carpentry, cost up to $18,000 a year.

The former employee said most of the students had come from Asia looking for employment and possibly permanent residence, and were now nearly $20,000 out of pocket and unsure about their future education.

"Half of them have gone home again, others have no place to go."

Some of the business partners of the Jireh International Academy said the company went downhill from the point Mr Huata took over.

Boating Industry Training Organisation general manager Chris van de Hor said his organisation had agreed to provide resources for the academy.

His company was now owed $10,000 by Mr Huata, but he said the most disappointing aspect of the school's closure was the stress caused to its international pupils.

Mr van de Hor said many of them had come to him for advice since the school closed, and were clearly distressed.

The liquidation report by PricewaterhouseCoopers said that the international school was underfunded from its inception and consistently struggled to generate revenue.

The academy stopped classes in March and did not renew its teachers' contracts.

A New Zealand Qualifications Authority audit in February found that some of its management, resources and courses were not adequate for a private training facility.

- NZ Herald

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