Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Greens call for apology from minister over refuge claims

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia. Photo / Supplied
Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia. Photo / Supplied

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia should apologise to women's refuges for accusing them of not telling her the full story about a refuge in financial strife after a letter revealed Women's Refuge had met with Mrs Turia about it in April.

Mrs Turia claimed on Radio NZ she was not told of the full extent of the problems faced by the Te Roopu Whakaruruhau O Nga Whanau Maori in Palmerston North by her officials or Women's Refuges.

That refuge's funding was frozen in December after an audit report raised serious concerns about financial management - a report which NZ First leader Winston Peters released this week.

Mrs Turia said she was angry that she first heard of the scale of problems raised in the audit report from Mr Peters and although Women's Refuge had contacted her earlier in the year for help, she was not told the issues were as serious as those raised by the audit.

However, Mrs Turei yesterday released a letter sent to Mrs Turia from Women's Refuge in April after a meeting with her. The letter raised the auditor's report, said the refuge was insolvent and was refusing any offers of help so had been put on notice.

Heather Henare, the chief executive of the umbrella Womens' Refuge collective, said yesterday it had told Government departments and ministers as soon as it knew about the refuge's problems. It tried to help the refuge in question after the auditor raised concerns, but its offer of help was rejected.

"We are disappointed with messages coming from Government that insinuate that we have not done our job in this particular matter."

Mrs Turei said Mrs Turia should apologise for blaming her officials and Women's Refuge when she was clearly told about the problem.

Yesterday Mrs Turia issued a statement saying she had spoken to officials and was assured there was not an issue of fraud, that all funding had been halted and that the Ministry was working with the refuge. She said it was an operational matter for the ministry.

Mr Peters had raised questions about Government funding of the refuge after an audit report showed it was in a bad financial state, owed $75,000 to Inland Revenue in overdue GST and PAYE and had overpaid annual leave.

The Ministry of Social Development's head of Family and Community Services, Murray Edridge, said it had awarded a total of $115,000 for the refuge this year and paid out $54,000 of that in October but put the rest on hold as soon as the National Collective advised it of the auditor's concerns last December.

- NZ Herald

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