Tainui costs 'phenomenal'

Tainui's executive is being challenged by the tribal parliament's new chairwoman over a substantial increase in spending by board members, Karla Akuhata reports.

A blow-out in governance costs has prompted the new chairwoman of the Tainui's tribal parliament to call for a review of the executive board's spending.

Chairwoman Tania Martin, who recently took over chairing the tribal parliament Te Kauhanganui, which represents 66 marae, has outlined her concerns about spending by the tribe's executive board, Te Arataura, in a 20-page report.

It is to be tabled at today's meeting of the tribal parliament in Hopuhopu – the first to be chaired by Mrs Martin.

Mrs Martin declined to comment, saying Te Kauhanganui needed to discuss the issues first.

In the report, obtained by the Times, Mrs Martin criticises the board for increasing their costs at a time when the distribution of grants is declining.

"Phenomenal forecasts of overhead costs for this financial year which, with the current rate of executive spending, will increase the current actual of $1.7 million to nearly $2.5m, if not more.

"Executive spending, to a degree where it's costing our organisation millions of dollars for governance alone, must be stopped immediately.

"The executive has lost perspective on their role and responsibilities as trustees of a charitable organisation such as ours."

Mrs Martin's report states that in the past seven months the board has spent $546,000 in fees for executive members, $314,000 in travel expenses and $467,000 in legal fees.

Tainui chairman Tuku Morgan did not respond to phone calls.

Tainui communications staff initially refused to comment but later said the figures in the report were incorrect. They would release correct figures today, they said.

Included in the report is a reference to a trip to Australia taken this month by Mr Morgan and two employees to talk with those living there who affiliate to Tainui.

The cost of the 10-day trip was $25,000.

A payment of $10,000 to executive member Rahui Papa for a "hardship grant" after his house burnt down isalso noted in the report. At the time Tainui did not have a hardship grant policy and Mr Papa did not complete a grant application.

Also under the spotlight is the increase in fees paid to members of the board.

When Te Arataura was created, members were paid $15,000. The amount then jumped to $30,000 and they are now paid $45,000.

The secretary and an appointed board member Greg Miller receive $50,000.

As chairman, Mr Morgan receives $75,000, which was bumped up from $45,000.

Mr Morgan was also the co-negotiator of Tainui's river settlement and paid a $75,000 honorarium plus $1500 each day or $1000 for a half day. On top of the honorariums, executive members are also paid $600 a day for any work they do for the tribe.

Recommendations in the report call for an internal review of the tribe's governance.

A full report, including recommendations, would be distributed to Te Kauhanganui members at the first meeting of 2011.

Tainui has a complex governance, management and commercial structure which consists of Te Kauhanganui, its parliament, made up of about 180 representatives from 66 marae in the region; Te Arataura, an executive board chaired by Mr Morgan; the administrative arm, Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Inc, which will be headed by incoming chief executive Parekawhia McLean; and a commercial branch, Tainui Group Holdings.

The tribe has an asset portfolio of $644 million and more than 60,000 beneficiaries.

It holds charitable tax status, and, therefore, does not pay tax on its income because the funds are used to benefit its tribal members.

Waikato Times