Treaty course bill $240,000

By AUDREY YOUNG

National is on the attack again over Treaty of Waitangi courses for public servants, this time questioning the worth of 27 courses run for staff at the Ministry of Economic Development at a cost of more than $240,000.

But the courses, over three years, were all run by the firm Gardiner and Parata, the principals of which are National's immediate past Maori vice-president Wira Gardiner and his partner, unsuccessful Wellington Central candidate Hekia Parata.

More than 500 ministry staff attended their courses, according to records released to National MP Murray McCully.

He said he did not challenge their ability to run a successful business.

"Good luck to them if they've got the business.

"I'm questioning whether departments are being extravagant or excessive in conducting these courses for their employees given the focus of those entities.

"It is not Maori-bashing. My point is that there is far too much political correctness creeping into the bureaucracy.

"That's a lot of relatively expensive treaty courses for a department that carries no responsibility for treaty or even social policy matters.

"I would expect virtually all of the expenditure in a department like that to be commercially focused," Mr McCully said.

He received the information under the Official Information Act, as well as information on Industry NZ courses and Tourism NZ.

Tourism staff should be focused on attracting more tourists, not on the treaty, said Mr McCully.

"Here we have departments which should be focused on very commercial outcomes engaging in courses of this sort on a scale that has got to be questionable.

"If you were a social services agency dealing with a predominantly Maori target market, then obviously you wouldn't criticise employees being given some reasonably extensive training in that regard."

Leader Bill English had also highlighted other courses, saying the content of the Careers Service treaty course fostered an ideology of separatism.

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