Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia says a Whanau Ora provider has done nothing wrong by offering support for the residency application of an overstayer with a history of family violence and alcohol abuse.
NZ First leader Winston Peters raised the case of the Canterbury-based Samoan man in Parliament yesterday, questioning whether it was appropriate for a Whanau Ora provider to be helping an overstayer with known family violence and substance abuse issues get residency. He released papers from the Pacific Trust Canterbury, in which the trust said it would seek support letters from organisations working with the family to back up an application for permanent residence by the man.
Mrs Turia said the trust had acted properly by quickly disclosing the man's status and undertaking to work with Immigration NZ while it also tried to address the family violence and substance abuse issues.
"He may yet have to leave the country."
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Mr Peters said it was outrageous that overstayers should benefit from Whanau Ora.
"How much funding is being siphoned off through Whanau Ora into the pockets of illegal immigrants?"
Mrs Turia said the man was one of 18 family members and they should not be deprived of Government assistance simply because one was an overstayer. She said there was another overstayer in another of the 20 families the Pacific Trust Canterbury was working with who was dealt with in a similarly open fashion.
"They've been transparent and I'm more than prepared to support them 100 per cent in the way they've dealt with this issue."
She also accused Mr Peters of unjustified attacks on Whanau Ora, saying it was the most heavily monitored programme yet Mr Peters had only been able to find two examples to criticise out of the 33,000 people taking part.
The Pacific Trust Canterbury was given $120,000 to work with 20 families under the Whanau Ora programme.
It said the father had issues with alcohol abuse and had been in trouble with the law. It put many of the problems down to financial and cultural issues - saying the man lacked knowledge of NZ customs and law, including on smacking children which the Whanau Ora assessment said was "an accepted practice of discipline" in Samoa.