Koha details costly to uncover

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 13/11/2012
tdn aroha stand
NPDC iwi relationships co-ordinator Aroha Chamberlain

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Four Maori organisations have received koha from the New Plymouth District Council in the last year, but it would cost thousands to find out just how much.

In August the Taranaki Daily News asked all Taranaki councils to provide information on how much money they had paid in the last three years for powhiri, tangi and other ceremonies requiring Maori cultural presentations.

Such events are not usually paid for but koha, or a gift, is often given to the individual, group, hapu or iwi involved.

In the three years to July 2012, South Taranaki District Council (STDC) paid out $2400 in koha. Stratford District Council paid $150 and the Taranaki Regional Council made one payment of $80 to Nga Ruahini.

But the New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) said providing such information would cost "several thousand dollars" and create a "significant administrative burden", as the types of payments did not reside in a single budget line.

This is the second time in two months the council has cited costs in relation to official information requests.

In September the Daily News was told it would cost $2000 to find out the travel costs of several of council's top staff.

The newspaper declined to meet those costs.

Under the terms of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 councils can refuse requests so substantial that charging or extending the time limit will not decrease the burden.

However the council did tell the Daily News what groups received koha or donations in the last year for ceremonies requiring a Maori cultural presentation.

The groups are Nga Ruahine iwi, Ngati Rahiri hapu, Parihaka Pa and Manukorihi Pa.

NPDC iwi relationships co-ordinator Aroha Chamberlain said the council annually gave about $200 in koha on Maui Pomare Day and Te Rangi Hiroa day - also known as Sir Peter Henry Buck day.

"The marae hosts those days. They have to pay for power, food, phones. Things like that. So we give a koha to help meet those costs. Generally we have a large group from council that attend these days," she said.

When kaumatua were needed for such things as powhiri they were generally given between $50 and $100, depending on how much time was involved, Ms Chamberlain said.

The largest koha payment made by STDC in the past three years was $750, which was given on 21 November, 2011 for annual Volunteers Day entertainment and covered both koha and prizes.

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The next biggest payments were three of $200 in June 2010 when koha was provided for an elected members visit to two marae.

STDC chief executive Craig Stevenson estimated it cost the council $700 to $1000 to provide the information on koha and iwi funding to the Daily News.

He said the council's approach had always been to provide relevant information as quickly as possible and generally, at no cost.

"This is because the requests usually involve matters of public interest," Mr Stevenson said.

It took just a few minutes for Stratford District Council to find out how much it paid out in koha each year.

"I have checked and we have one meeting a year on the marae and contribute $50 towards costs each year. No calculation goes into this," said chief executive Sue Davidson.

Taranaki Regional Council had given even less than that in the last three years with one koha payment of $80 to Aotearoa Marae.

"All decisions on the amount of koha are on a case by case basis. However as, as you can see, they do not occur frequently and the amounts involved are not significant," TRC chief executive Basil Chamberlain said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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