PM's office stumps up $300,000 for waka

By Bernard Orsman

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Prime Minister John Key chipped in $300,000 from his own departmental budget towards a giant waka costing nearly $2 million on Auckland's waterfront for the Rugby World Cup, official papers show.

The waka will cost $900,000 to build and a further $1.1 million to host cultural and business events, papers released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show.

Te Puni Kokiri is paying $800,000 towards construction and local iwi, Ngati Whatua o Orakei, the remaining $100,000. The running costs are split between the Ministry of Culture and Heritage ($800,000) and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet ($300,000).

When news of the waka broke in April, Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples did not provide a cost breakdown. Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Mr Key said it was not unusual for the Prime Minister to fund new projects he personally believed had merit.

"In this instance the money was appropriated via the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet," the spokeswoman said.

Labour MP Shane Jones said it was slightly weird for funding to come from incongruous sources like the Prime Minister's department.

Mr Jones maintained the "Tupperwaka" episode was a bag of lollies to shore up the re-election prospects of the Maori Party in Tamaki-Makaurau and not about Maori identity at the World Cup.

"I can guarantee no hapu in Gisborne or Whangarei is receiving the Prime Minister's patronage in this fashion," Mr Jones said.

The papers show that there were difficulties finding a home for the waka at the Cup. Te Puni Kokiri originally tried for Aotea Square as an upmarket location and near the start of a 4.5km walking "fan trail" from Queen St to Eden Park. When this was dismissed, the Government and Ngati Whatua agreed on in front of Shed 10 on Queens Wharf, only to be told by the Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) council-owned body that the five worldwide sponsors for the Cup had "first dibs".

The tournament festival director Briony Ellis said: "This is a really messy one ... we are very much opposed to it being on Queens Wharf for obvious logistics reasons."

Two other sites were then considered: at the end of Halsey St, near the Viaduct Events Centre, and on Te Wero Island in the Viaduct Harbour.

Ngati Whatua project manager Renata Blair indicated a preference for Te Wero Island, and in an email to Waterfront Auckland chief executive John Dalzell Ateed chief executive Michael Redman told him it may have to be Te Wero "in light of the broader national context".

- NZ Herald

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