Big bill for commissioners' farewell

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 29/10/2012

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More than $12,110 was spent on a function to farewell two members of the Maori Language Commission board and celebrate 25 years of the Maori Language Act.

That included farewell gifts of more than $2000 each for Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and Ruakere Hond, figures released under the Official Information Act show.

The event, for Maori language stakeholders, was held on August 1 and 2 in Wellington.

More than 200 people attended and invitees included Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, academics, public servants and members of the Maori media.

The commission spent $7610 flying 14 people to Wellington.

Flights were for incoming board members Katrina Evans and Poia Rewi, a speaker at the event and kaumatua.

Dame Iritana and Mr Hond spoke during the event and were presented with traditional Maori cloaks to thank them for their tenure of 12 and nine years respectively.

"Both of these former commissioners have been at the forefront of the language movement over the first 25 years of the Maori Language Act and continue to contribute to the future language going forward," documents provided to Fairfax Media said. The gifts were consistent with the auditor-general's guidelines, it said.

Dame Iritana's cloak was made of flax fibre dyed with natural dyes and took one weaver about 70 hours to make. It cost $2000.

Mr Hond's cloak cost $2500. It required the work of two weavers and took approximately 80 hours. It was made with leaves from Mt Taranaki.

The incoming board members did not receive gifts.

At the time of the event, commission chair Erima Henare said Dame Iritana and Mr Hond had served te reo Maori all their lives.

"In the last 25 years there have been significant and monumental achievements for the Maori language-speaking community and New Zealand," Mr Henare said.

As well as incoming and outgoing commissioners, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, former Waitangi Tribunal chief judge Joe Williams, and former chair of the commission Patu Hohepa spoke at the event.

Food and non-alcoholic beverages were served at the formal event on August 1.

A smaller function, focused on community language development, was held the following day.

State Services Commission guidelines said expenditure on food, drink and gifts to farewell staff was a sensitive issue.

"There is a challenge to find the right balance between management discretion and the risks of perceived inconsistency."

In August, it was revealed the public sector spent $453,450 of taxpayer money on morning tea shouts, powhiri and farewell parties for public servants over the past three years. Fairfax NZ

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