Kohanga transparency call

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 13:28 25/03/2014

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Another iwi leader has called for more transparency from kohanga leaders after they stonewalled questions over loans to board members and allegations of misspending.

The call comes after claims of misspending by officials at Te Pataka Ohanga (TPO), the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust's commercial arm, sparked an independent inquiry that cleared trust officials but failed to address the initial allegations.

Education Minister Hekia Parata last week referred TPO to the Serious Fraud Office following further allegations from a trust board member, after initially declaring the report showed no public money had been misspent.

Both TPO and the trust have said they would co-operate with the inquiry though the trust has refused to say which board member received a $50,000 koha and which members the trust lent money to.

TPO officials have refused to comment.

Awanui Black, a Tauranga Moana iwi leader, today issued a statement calling on the trust, and in particular the directors of TPO, to be more transparent.

"I'm disappointed at the way my people have been treated," he said.

"They shouldn't have to beg for answers or run to the media to put the pressure on the powers that be to get answers."

He said he was fully supportive of the kohanga and its mission but people wanted and deserved answers.

"It is time for those at the table of the national trust and its subsidiary company to front up now with some answers because only then can we determine a new pathway forward for our children who are the key to the survival of our precious language," Black said.

"The kohanga reo kaupapa is a crucial key to this, and the sooner our whanau can get on with the work without this hanging over them, the better."

Meanwhile, changes to the trust board are on the cards, with founding members of the kohanga movement to voice their concerns at a national hui called by the Maori king.

The trust plans to fast-track proposed changes, including a shakeup of the board.

Maori King Tuheitia has called a hui to be held at Turangawaewae Marae next month.

Timoti Karetu and Tina Olsen-Ratana, who co-chair the trust board, said changes to "the makeup and membership of the board" would be on the table.

They said both the trust and TPO would cooperate fully with the Serious Fraud Office inquiry.

Labour MP Shane Jones said it was time for the trust's leadership to step aside for a younger, more dynamic group to drive the movement.

"The kohanga reo, to be relevant, has to be dynamic and to be dynamic it has to renew," he said.

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"The kohanga reo is not a papal state and we're not waiting for some puff of smoke to come out of the kohanga HQ in Brooklyn and announcing that there's a new lifelong leader."

Some of the founding members of the kohanga reo movement had been asked to guide the hui and "hammer home that the real lifeblood of the kohanga was out in the regions amongst the little kids".

Those people were concerned about the impact on kohanga reo and would seek to remind those attending of the movement's worth.

"There is a concern that not enough young families are actually availing themselves of the kohanga and that's the lifeblood they wanted to bring back," Jones said.

- The Dominion Post

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