John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Turia has Peters on the hop ... this time

Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It takes an awful lot to flummox Winston Peters, but Tariana Turia yesterday came as close as anyone is likely to get to doing so.

Resuming his intermittent one-man mission to destroy Turia's most-prized creation, Whanau Ora, Peters came to Parliament with a document which he waved as evidence that Turia was dishing out the dollars holus-bolus to various Maori entities, so they could fund their bids to run the multi-million dollar social programme.

The NZ First leader was so keen for the House to get to his question that he was barking orders at Bill English, variously telling the Acting Prime Minister to "sit down" or "stop wasting time".

When Peters finally got the call, he asked Turia, as Minister responsible for Whanau Ora, whether she had ever offered resources and staff, such as report writers, to prepare Whanau Ora commissioning agency bid documentation. "No," Turia replied.

Had she given $500,000-plus expert help to the National Hauora Coalition to prepare its bid for Whanau Ora money? Again, the reply was an emphatic "no".

It was beginning to look like this was not going to be a winebox moment for Peters. Government MPs were enjoying the extremely rare sight of him firing what seemed to be blanks.

"You will not be laughing shortly, gentlemen," he warned. He tried again. Did Turia give $3 million to the Iwi Leaders Forum to prepare its Whanau Ora commissioning agency bid? Again, "no".

Peters' voice by now carried more of a hint of disbelief coupled with bewilderment. "So is she saying that a document that came to her at Parliament on August 8 at 3.26pm, setting out these matters and detailing the matters I am talking about, was just made up?"

This time the answer was longer - but no less dismissive. "I have no idea what the member is talking about."

That statement brought the House down. Peters had to sit down, having seemingly run out of ammunition, blank or otherwise. Turia and her Maori Party colleague Te Ururoa Flavell did an impromptu victory high-five.

Turia later called a press conference at which she once again vigorously denied Peters' claims and released an email from her staff last month to various Maori identities saying it would not be appropriate for the minister to divert resources to help any group prepare its bid to administer and allocate funding of Whanau Ora contracts.

Turia may have relished tormenting Parliament's resident tormentor. But she is guaranteed one thing. Peters never forgets. He will be on her case from now until the other side of next year's election.

- NZ Herald

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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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