Peters demands apology over Whanau Ora row

04:40, Feb 08 2012

An angry Winston Peters has made a personal statement to Parliament after his partner Jan Trotman was dragged into a political row over Whanau Ora funding.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia today sought to discredit Peters over his attacks on Whanau Ora funding by linking Trotman to one of the biggest beneficiaries of Whanau Ora funding, the Waipareira Trust.

In Parliament a short time later, Peters accused the Maori Party of impugning his integrity and demanded it apologise for "demonstrably false" claims.

In a personal statement, Peters did not name Trotman but said a person associated with him had been asked by John Tamihere of the Waipareira Trust to address a senior management group on February 12, 2010, to give a presentation on management competencies of a large corporation.

A follow up meeting occurred on February 13, where Trotman acted as an observer to provide feedback to the chief executive on the competency of senior management.

"This was a meeting unrelated to Whanau Ora which I attended myself in the evening. In February 2011, Mr Tamihere again asked for advice on one of his senior managers.

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"Again this was not aligned to Whanau Ora in any way. It was an HR [human resources] issue associated with the organisation and a particular individual. "

Peters yesterday attacked a Whanau Ora grant which he says paid for a "family reunion" and said about $6 million of tax-payer cash had been "squandered" on more than 200 applications for Whanau Integration, Innovation and Engagement funding.

It details the case of Johni Rutene who "wants to reconnect his 180-strong family with each other and their Wairarapa turangawaewae, strengthen their bonds and improve their overall whanau ora".

Rutene is quoted in the report saying things were "really hard for whanau, and they're going to get harder".

"We need to learn - as a family - about things we can grow that we can eat," Rutene says in the report.

One plan was to hold six hui next year, with the first commemorating the 25th anniversary of the death of his grandparents, Ihaka and Eraina Rutene. The focus of the other five hui would reflect the Rutene whanau approach to their own whanau ora.

Peters said such schemes were "an appalling waste of tax-payer's money".

Rutene declined to comment this morning.

However, Whanau Ora Minister Turia today defended the programme, saying it didn't fund family reunions.

"It is really important if families are the problem that they come together to look at the issues that have been confronting them and to resolve them."

Turia has also dismissed Peter's claim that money saved though job cuts at the Maori Affairs Ministry, Te Puni Kokiri, would fund Whanau Ora.

In the past questions have been raised about other successful programmes being cut in order to fund Whanau Ora.

"Mr Peters knows nothing and he shouldn't keep guessing," Turia said.

The Maori Party had always been clear Whanau Ora needed its own funding stream.

"If we expect that Whanau Ora is going to be the panacea for all the ills, then of course it needs more money."

Asked where that money would come from with the Government signalling a zero Budget this year, Turia said "that just depends how the Government re-organises itself to meet those issues".

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