Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

PM: Native Affairs ban 'not sensible'

Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi. File photo / APN
Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi. File photo / APN

Prime Minister John Key said the ban on Maori Television's Native Affairs journalists from a press conference at the conclusion of a hui on Te Kohanga Reo National Trust was "generally not a sensible thing to do."

"In my view they receive a considerable amount of Government funding and they should be held to account and scrutiny like any other agency that receives money," he said when asked about it at his post cabinet press conference.

Over 1000 people involved in the kohanga reo Maori language pre-school movement attended the hui to discuss its problems and modernization of its structure.

Native Affairs aired several stories last year about the trust - which received $92 million from the Government in 2012 for 463 kohanga reo -and its wholly owned commercial army, Te Pataka Ohanga (TPO).

The press conference was held by Kingitanga spokesman Tukuorirangi Morgan and three members of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust board: Dame Iritana Tawhiwhiranga, Dr Timoti Karetu and Dr Wharehuia Milroy, in King Tuheitia's office at Turangawaewae, Ngaruawahia.

Mr Morgan said they were entitled to have who they wanted at the press conference.

He also said that the hui had decided it would not accept any "intrusion" by the Government into the affairs of kohanga reo.

It also wanted negotiations on following the trust's successful Waitangi Tribunal claim to being.

Those negotiations have been put on hold until the trust becomes more accountable, including ending board memberships for life.

Mr Key said there were still open questions about the spending of TPO being looked at by the Charities Services of the Internal Affairs Department and the Serious Fraud Office.

"They have to be accountable and responsible for the Government funding that they received. We have made it clear and we will continue to make it clear what our expectations are."

Mr Key said the Government wanted the "full information" before it began negotiations on the treaty claim.

"And we don't have the full information in terms of the subsidiary."

Education Minister Hekia Parata and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples wrote to the trust board two weeks ago saying they wanted to hear from the board by April 30.

They said the Ministry of Education would not renew the contract with the trust in its present form when it expired on June 30 and set out the Government's expectation that the trust be reformed before treaty negotiations began.

They said the contract could be extended to October 30.

Today they said that in saying they want to hear from the trust board by April 30 was not setting a deadline.

"We asked the board to come back to us by the end of the month on the next steps, but this is not a deadline as some have been suggesting.

"We want to ensure the process to determine future governance is carried out with the full involvement of the movement and understand that may take some time."

It would be expected that work around the treaty claim could progress once the Government's concerns about governance arrangements have been addressed.

- NZ Herald

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