Whanau Ora grants inquiry not needed - PM

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2012
John Key
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax NZ
JOHN KEY: The prime minister.
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Prime Minister John Key says there are no "proven substantial issues" with Whanau Ora after a gang member was jailed for using taxpayer money to buy cannabis.

Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia has refused to explain the misuse of $20,000 awarded under her flagship scheme.

Korrey Teeati Cook, 36, and nine fellow Dunedin Notorious Mongrel Mob members were arrested earlier this year after police conducted electronic surveillance.

In recorded phone calls Cook told associates the Dunedin chapter was the model for other branches to get Whanau Ora funding from Te Puni Kokiri.

The gang ran the We Against Violence Trust, transferred $20,000 of taxpayer money into a private account and used it to buy cannabis.

Cook was jailed for four years on dishonesty and supply of cannabis charges. At the time of the offending he was on bail for violence charges, for which he was sentenced to a further two years and nine months.

In May, Mrs Turia said there was no evidence gang members had misused the money.

She would not comment yesterday and did not show up at a scheduled event in Taranaki.

Mr Key said he did not see the need for a full investigation of Whanau Ora because it was early days.

There had not been proven substantial issues, he said. "We've seen the odd example where a funding grant has gone wrong and the system has picked that up."

Further checks would be built into the scheme over time, he said. "The overall success is something that we'll just take a bit more time to measure."

A report into the Whanau Integration, Innovation and Engagement Fund found processes were "still evolving".

The fund distributed $7.7 million in 2011-12 and was forecast to allocate $6.4m in 2012-13.

The report said there was "insufficient readiness for a more traditional formative or process evaluation".

Interviews with recipients found they were "mostly positive" about their funding experience.

"Whanau stories are a powerful device to convey what whanau transformation looks like. On their own, however, they do not provide convincing evidence of the WIIE results nationally."

Te Puni Kokiri said procedures and practices would keep being developed.

The evaluations done so far suggested the fund was having a positive impact.

"But gathering a stronger evidence base will be a priority for the fund, and the wider Whanau Ora effort."

NZ First leader Winston Peters said there were plenty of other cases where people had misused Whanau Ora money.

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"I don't want to say I told you so, but I did. I told you it was going to be a circus with no accountability."

The evaluations received by Te Puni Kokiri were from sympathetic organisations, but independent groups would have called for the the scheme to be scrapped, Mr Peters said.

"When are we going to start coming to our senses to see that this is not a priority, that housing, education, jobs and decent health for Maori, like the rest of the country, is."

- The Dominion Post

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