Thousands spent on whanau gatherings

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2012

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Thousands has been spent on food, chefs and travel for family gatherings under a multimillion-dollar Government "whanau innovation fund".

The Dominion Post has obtained, under the Official Information Act, details of the 25 most recent successful applicants to the controversial Whanau Integration, Innovation and Engagement (WIIE) Fund.

Most successful applicants are paid $5000 to help develop "whanau plans" that are supposed to help plot a course for families to become more self-reliant.

Funding increases to about $20,000 for groups implementing their plans.

More than $6 million is believed to have been allocated since the fund was set up in 2010.

One $5000 contract agreed between the Maori development agency Te Puni Kokiri (TPK) and an unnamed Hawke's Bay whanau of 20 members details how the cash would be spent on a hui.

The hui would finalise "spiritual balance" and "family development" among other things.

Two "facilitators" would be paid $500 each and $400 would be spent on a venue for the hui.

There would also be $1000 for a hangi and $600 for a chef as well as a $500 administration fee and $300 for travel on top of $1200 for "resources".

The funding agreement was signed on January 12, with $4000 paid upfront on the understanding a report on the hui would be filed with TPK by the end of April. The remaining $1000 would be paid when the whanau plans were completed, which was expected by the end of June.

TPK chief executive Leith Comer said WIIE Fund allocations were designed to "strengthen whanau capacity" so that whanau were strongly connected with each other.

WIIE Fund projects also helped people "actively engage in wider society, have strong leadership that empowers [whanau] members and fosters resilience and have the knowledge, capability and tools to achieve whanau goals and aspirations".

Any family could apply for WIIE funding but a legal entity or Whanau Trust was required to administer the funds.

"Category 1" Whanau Ora providers received the largest allocations from the WIIE Fund – the National Urban Maori Authority received $350,000 to develop at least 10 to 15 whanau plans between July last year and March this year. The Te Ao Hou Whanau Ora Collective in the Bay of Plenty received $275,000 to develop and implement at least three to five plans.

NZ First leader Winston Peters said the WIIE Fund was "an appalling waste of money".

"If people in a family don't want to keep up their own connections and their own linkages, then it's hardly the taxpayer's responsibility," Mr Peters said.

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The requirements for reporting under the fund were fine but it was not clear what was supposed to be achieved.

"How is paying for a family reunion going to make people more self-reliant?" Mr Peters said.

"This is a pie in the sky idea that comes with no analysis and no rigorous checks of what is going on. It seems like we're financing a whole sack of reunions ... what is the policy and what is the intention both in the short, immediate and long term?"

Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia could not be reached for comment yesterday.

What's In A Cheque?

One $5000 contract, agreed with an unnamed whanau trust in Hawke's Bay to help 20 people includes: Venue hire – $400 Kai – $1000 Resources – $1200 Ringawera (cook) – $600 Admin fee – $500 Travel – $300 Facilitators – $1000

- © Fairfax NZ News

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