Whanau Ora minister faces criticism

By Kate Shuttleworth

Maori Party joint leader Tariana Turia. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today
Maori Party joint leader Tariana Turia. Photo / Hawke's Bay Today

Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia has fronted up for the first time over a series of criticisms of the $34 million fund for at-risk families.

Mrs Turia spoke to media on the same day she held planning workshops with stakeholders in Wellington to discuss the next phase of the programme's implementation.

Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Maori Development, last week released an evaluation of the Whanau Integration, Innovation and Engagement Fund which said the funds were helping families but the scheme's success was affected by performance, monitoring and reporting gaps.

IT suggested the success of the scheme could not solely be measured by the stories of families and needed other solid measures.

It also found the funds had been unevenly allocated across New Zealand - with areas such as Northland receiving only 7 per cent of the funding.

Mrs Turia said she was satisfied with the performance of the programme and didn't see a need for better monitoring or reporting.

"I am more than satisfied with the accountability of the spend."

Finance Minister Bill English said money given to families under the scheme could be better evaluated and monitored.

He said, however, the scheme had been set up with a lot of structure and checking.

"If performance measures haven't been met then there will be an expectation they need to adjust their practise and their method in order to get on and meet them," said Mr English.

Mrs Turia said the misuse of funds by and subsequent conviction of Dunedin man Korrey Teeati Cook, 26, was an "isolated" incident.

Cook was sentenced to four years on cannabis changes and a criminal breach of trust.

Mrs Turia said if wages had been paid to the group Cook was involved with there wouldn't have been an issue.

"The fact is they left the money in a central pool and then utilised that money inappropriately," said Mrs Turia.

The programme has been in the spotlight since February this year when $6000 was reportedly granted to an applicant to hold six family reunions.

Whanau ora governance group chairman Sir Mason Durie said the scheme had received too much negative media attention and the positive stories had been ignored.

"Most Government programmes do not measure outcomes, they measure volumes, the amount of work that's done and the amount of money that's spent."

Up to 33,000 people had engaged in the Whanau Ora since it began.

- APNZ

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