Sir Howard Morrison's daughter Donna Mariana Grant will spend 12 months serving home detention for defrauding a tertiary education provider and a Crown agency of at least $1.3 million.

As Justice Graham Lang announced her sentence there were sighs of relief, wails and tears in the public gallery.

Some of the money she took illegally was used to prop up the New Zealand Warriors Foundation.

Other portions were used to help Te Arawa host the Te Matatini kapa haka festival and a private training entity based in Rotorua.

Advertisement

Grant, a prominent Māori performing arts educator, pleaded guilty to four fraud charges in the High Court at Rotorua in December.

Family and friends filled the public gallery at the High Court at Rotorua this afternoon, including notable Māori leaders: including Rotorua Lakes councillor Trevor Maxwell (Grant's uncle) Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chairwoman Merepeka Raukawa-Tait and ex-politician John Tamihere.

Donna Grant enters the Rotorua courthouse for her sentencing in the High Court. Photo / Stephen Parker
Donna Grant enters the Rotorua courthouse for her sentencing in the High Court. Photo / Stephen Parker

They shared hongi and hugs as they formed a long line to enter the court shortly before midday.

Grant used her leadership with Te Arawa Kapa Charitable Trust, the New Zealand Warriors Foundation, and the Manaakitanga Aotearoa Trust to fraudulently obtain funding from tertiary education provider Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and the Tertiary Education Commission.

Grant was also the first woman to be appointed to the Warriors rugby league club board in 2012.

She was sentenced for three charges of dishonestly using documents and one charge of obtaining funding by deception.

The offending had caused "reputational damage and damage to the mana" of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, chief executive Professor Wiremu Doherty said in a written victim impact statement.

He said there had been "Damage to students, whānau, hapū, iwi and community services".

Advertisement
Donna Grant appears in the High Court at Rotorua for a pre-trial hearing in November. Photo / File
Donna Grant appears in the High Court at Rotorua for a pre-trial hearing in November. Photo / File

The Tertiary Education Commission said the offending "regrettably undermines the confidence the public has in the wānanga and the wider tertiary education sector".

Crown lawyer Stephen Bonnar QC told Justice Lang the Crown acknowledged Grant "didn't personally benefit" from the money, and it was for the organisations she served.

However, he said the offending was "a significant breach of trust", was pre-meditated and "over a significant period of time".

He argued for an imprisonment sentence.

Grant's defence lawyer Paul Wicks QC said Grant was "extremely ashamed and deeply remorseful" for her offending over four years.

Grant was also the first woman to be appointed to the Warriors rugby league club board in 2012. Photo / File
Grant was also the first woman to be appointed to the Warriors rugby league club board in 2012. Photo / File

He said it "wasn't particularly sophisticated offending".

Wicks said Grant had had "a lifetime of devoted service to the community" and had "a large volume of letters of support".

He said Grant had substantial caregiving roles without support since a young age and continued to be the primary caregiver for her ill mother.

"I expect this will be the first and last time Mrs Grant finds herself before the court."

He argued she should have a home detention sentence.

Justice Lang said Grant had faced "special pressures" from her father Sir Howard's "fame and celebrity".

"By any standards this has been a spectacular fall from grace."

He used a sentencing starting point of four years in prison and said there were no aggravating factors requiring him to uplift this.

Justice Lang reduced Grant's sentence by 12 months for her roles within her family and community, and because he felt there was little likelihood of her reoffending.

He also discounted her sentence by three months for remorse she had shown in letters, and then for another nine months for her guilty plea.

He then announced a final sentence of 12 months home detention saying it made "absolutely no sense" to put a 61-year-old like her in prison.

Summary of facts Charge 1: Dishonestly using documents

On September 17 2012, Te Arawa Kapa Charitable Trust trustees discussed fundraising ideas after being chosen to host Te Matatini in Rotorua the next year.

Grant said fundraising through the Hei Manaaki programme offered by Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi could help pay for volunteers' uniforms and catering.

The tertiary provider offered Māori Tourism Certificates at New Zealand Qualifications Authority's Levels 3 and 4 through Hei Manaaki.

The kapa haka trust signed a contract with Awanuiārangi to deliver Hei Manaaki courses for 50 students between July 23 and November 23, 2012.

The contract was "inspired and facilitated" by Grant, the summary of facts stated, and specified the delivery of an 18-week course to start on July 23.

That was eight weeks before Grant had raised the idea with the kapa haka committee.

Awanuiārangi paid two invoices by direct credit on December 4 2012.

One was for $64,552.12 for teaching and another was for $1,552.50 for hiring teaching space.

Charge 2: Dishonestly using documents

In late 2012, Grant told Awanuiārangi she would deliver a Hei Manaaki programme for Te Matatini volunteers, who were asked to attend a training day on January 12, 2013.

They provided with answers and were not assessed. None of the volunteers were aware of the true nature of the enrolment forms.

Grant then facilitated the signing of another contract between Awanuiārangi and the kapa haka trust for another Hei Manaaki course for up to 100 students between February 11, 2013, and June 14, 2013.

On May 31, 2013, Awanuiārangi paid $44,084.38 to the trust for the programme delivery in February and March. On August 5, 2013, it paid another $87,556.47 for the delivery in April, May and June.

Charge 3: Dishonestly using documents

In May 2012, Sir Owen Glenn appointed Grant his representative on the Warriors Rugby Club board.

She helped establish the Warriors Foundation to help recruits into other avenues in life if they could not make the transition to professional sport.

Grant facilitated the signing of a contract for the Warriors Foundation to deliver another Hei Manaaki course with Awanuiārangi.

The Warriors Rugby Club told players and staff they need to attend a cultural day at the Auckland University marae on January 21, 2013.

Attendees included the chief executive officer, chief financial officer, administration staff and senior players. They were required to complete enrolment forms before completing the assessments, but none were aware of Awanuiārangi's expectations for participants. On May 27, 2013, Awanuiārangi paid $83,336.02 for the facilitation of the Hei Manaaki course for 94 students from February to April.

That same day, a Warriors board meeting recorded the Warriors Foundation was self-funded with grants, including money from Awanuiārangi.

On August 5, 2013, Awanuiārangi paid another $65,776.69 for the course delivery.
During a Deloitte audit of Awanuiārangi, Grant submitted falsified attendance sheets to represent that some of these students had attended Hei Manaaki sessions.

She also contacted the members and management of the Warriors Foundation and provided them with false attendance records and resource booklets. Nobody at the Warriors agreed to participate in Grant's efforts to mislead the auditors the summary stated.

Charge 4: Obtaining by deception

Manaakitanga Aotearoa Trust was a private training entity based in Rotorua.

Between 2010 and 2014, Grant was the charity's chief executive and operational manager.
Grant reported to the Tertiary Education Commission that 113 students completed either a National Certificate of Māori Performing Arts (NZQA Level 4) or a Diploma of Māori Performing Arts (Level 6) between 2010 and 2014.

She obtained a total of $970,278 from the commission for this, but the students were fictitious.