Fears for projects
Some community leaders fear an $8 million pledge to help the people of Otara could fizzle out in the wake of controversy.
Millionaire Sir Owen Glenn offered in July 2012 to support 12 organisations that provide opportunities to residents and solutions to social issues in one of the region's poorest suburbs.
But questions have since been raised about irregular payments from the Glenn Family Foundation charity and key resignations from his domestic violence inquiry amidst revelations that he was charged with abuse of family or household members in Hawaii in 2002. Sir Owen offered a plea of no contest when the case came before a Hawaiian court in 2003 and the charge was dismissed in 2004 when the probationary period ended.
But it wasn't until June this year that the historic court action got wider publicity - prompting Sir Owen to say there is no truth to the original allegation.
A number of people now wonder if the foundation can survive the fallout.
Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board chairman John McCracken "hopes the issues can be resolved so things will get back on an even track".
The local board joined the foundation in helping fund bike tracks at Ngati Otara, Rongomai reserve and East Tamaki School.
Mr McCracken says the overall future of what Sir Owen calls the Otara project is unclear.
"No one has been advised that the Glenn Family Foundation has withdrawn. We're a very interested party obviously and I understand that some monies have been coming to some groups so there's clearly still a commitment that they want to honour."
Community leader Poutoa Papalii also wants some clarity around the situation.
"At ground level we don't know what's going on, for the reason being that the people they had working with us are not there. The people who are in the know are further up the chain. I understand some projects have been left stranded and are now having to pick up the slack and others have gone under because it was too hard to carry on."
Sir Owen, in an email to the Manukau Courier, gives no long-term assurances to stakeholders and doesn't say how the foundation plans to stay visible in Otara.
But he outlines a number of successes including sporting initiatives, teacher placement in secondary schools, tertiary scholarships and a three day pilot for 160 primary students learning business enterprise.
"The various projects the foundation has embarked on are continuing with all payments to recipients met to date."
Otara Health and the youth orchestra Sistema Aotearoa both say they've received verbal assurances of financial support for the next year from the foundation and that payments have so far been honoured.
"All I can say is they have fulfilled their commitment to Otara Health for another year and they've supported us as far as they've said they would," acting chief executive Diane Maloney says.
But plans to start a family centre in the suburb have stalled. "We were looking for a suitable premises."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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