Dame Tariana Turia was highly complimentary after meeting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last night to discuss Whanau Ora but was less flattering about Ardern's Maori ministers.
Turia and other claimants to the Waitangi Tribunal on the Government's handling of Whanau Ora were invited to Premier House to meet Ardern.
They met her on her own and without any advisers or other minister, before joining the PM and senior Maori ministers for dinner: Whanau Ora Minister Peeni Minister, Maori Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis and the two chairs of the Maori Labour caucus, Willie Jackson and Meka Whaitiri.
"She asked to meet with ask and we wanted the opportunity to be able to talk to her on her own actually," said Turia.
"We wanted to know what she thought about things and we wanted her to hear what our experiences had been."
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Turia said he did not know Ardern but she found her receptive and warm.
"That's the first time I've had a meeting with her," she said.
"I found her to be very receptive. She was warm. You could tell this was somebody who genuinely wants to do the right thing and so I guess we have to wait and see what happens."
The tribunal claim, lodged by Turia, Dame Naida Glavish, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Lady Tureiti Moxon and Merepeka Raukawa Tait, alleges that the Government has misappropriated the Whanau Ora concept by directly funding some programmes from the Whanau Ora pool of funding, bypassing the Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency.
She thought the Whanau Ora minister had a lack of understanding about Whanau Ora.
"I think he just sees it as another programme where you go in and you give people money to fix people up. Well that's not how it works.
"People have to fix themselves up. The role of Whanau Ora is to build the capacity and capability of those families to do for themselves."
Turia said she didn't regret saying last month that Ardern was out of her depth on Whanau Ora.
"Maori issues are always very complex for Government – it doesn't matter who is the Government Because they rely on probably the Pakeha vote and there are more Pakeha voters than there are Maori I know they have to walk a fine line when they are dealing with Maori issues."
The next step was that Ardern would talk to her ministers and the group would meet again, possibly with the ministers.
"But we are not going to withdraw from the claim at this point."
Asked what it would take to withdraw the claim to the tribunal she said that had not yet been considered.
"We haven't talked about that because we haven't felt confident, to be frank, with the Maori ministers and their ability to listen to people on the ground or even to take notice that the reviews have shown that Whanau Ora is operating really well."
Peeni Henare said Ardern had been clear that the strategic leadership of whanau ora into the future was something they had all agreed to work on.
"She has given myself and my office pretty clear instructions about allowing a process to start that will see their views considered in the strategic leadership into the future and by whanau ora we mean the kaupapa [the concept], not money or the current administration of it."
He also said Ardern had suggested that he bring the Whanau Ora Commissioning agency in on the work that was being undertaken by NGOs with Whanau Ora funding to work with families of young men in prison to help their rehabilitation on release.
The money was not going to Corrections – as Turia had claimed.
He said he had told the commissioning agency to say it play a role in it.
But some locations were under-served by Whanau Ora and Wairoa was one of them.
"Not quite $3000 is going into that community for Whanau Ora and yet it is what I would term high needs."
Wairoa had come to the Government a plan for localised projects, not just for Maori providers or NGOs but the council, the Chamber of Commerce and social providers.
"I think that's exciting."
The group gave a clear message that they wanted to protect the taonga of Whanau Ora and they had a role to play in doing so.
However he did not believe they had a propriety interest in it or that the Government could be accused of misappropriating the concept.
"We see whanau ora as a kaupapa that doesn't belong to any one particular person or organisation.
"In any discussion with any of the dames, they'll tell you that Maori have been practicing whanau ora forever, for centuries, so why then all of a sudden there is scramble for IP on this matter when I believe it belong to all of us."
The five claimants were joined in their meeting with Ardern by Sir Mason Durie, who helped to establish Whanau Ora with Turia, and Dame Areta Koopu.