Jun 29, 2012

The problem with Whanau Ora

In another Whanau Ora controversy, Winston Peters has revealed a Palmerston North based provider owes $75,000 to IRD in overdue GST and PAYE tax. The provider, a branch of the Women’s Refuge, also overpaid annual leave. Following an audit report funding was frozen.

This controversy, in conjunction with the others, illustrates serious competency issues in the delivery and monitoring of Whanau Ora. The problems can be attributed to teething issues, but I think that explanation is too simplistic.

Whanau Ora outsources social service funding and delivery. More often than not the government outsources to organisations that do not have a proven track record in delivering and monitoring social services. The Women’s Refuge, for example, is a proven provider when it comes to providing accomodation and support for battered women. However, beyond that service, the Women’s Refuge is untested and inexperienced. I think it is fair to assume no one in the Women’s Refuge has the institutional, administrative and business experience to competently deliver social services beyond what they specialise in.

This was always going to be the gamble with Whanau Ora. There were never enough organisations with the capacity and experience to deliver what the government does or did. There are exceptions, the Waipereira trust is probably the most prominent example, but they are the exception not the rule.

It is an indictment on Te Puni Kokiri that these controversies keep occurring. TPK was, after all, restructured in an attempt to put more focus on Whanau Ora.

I support Whanau Ora in principle. The idea that communities should deliver social services makes sense. The idea that social service delivery should be centralised is also smart. However, the ideas do not seem to be working well in practice. This, I think, can be rectified over time. The government needs to take a more active role in building capability among providers. Any approach otherwise is just negligent.


  1. I dont think this is whanau ora funding or TPK? It looks like centres around a MSD contract instead.

    1. I think it was a Whanau Ora contract which, I believe, MSD funds. Monitoring falls on the Whanau Ora division of TPK in most instances.

    2. Can't believe Tariana threw women's refuge under the bus saying she wasn't informed of their problems. It's curtains for the Maori Party at the next election. As for TPK what a joke

  2. Check your facts Morgan. MSD has always direct funded Refuges (a part of reducing family violence initiatives). Before you criticize the purpose and implementation of Whanau Ora, you need to be certain about the funding framework that this falls into.

    1. I'm not crticising the purpose of Whanau Ora. I've said time and again that I support the initiative. If you read the above post, you'll actually find I praise the purposes.

      The fact that MSD has always funded the Women's Refuge does not detract from the essence of my criticisms. WR has been funded to provide care for battered women and that is where their expertise lay. Anything wider than that is beyond their experience and expertise it seems and this generally applies to other providers too.

  3. If you want to be taken seriously then you need to ensure the accuracy of your 'factual' statements. This is not a Whanau Ora issue. Is the women's refuge even a Whanau Ora provider?

    1. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1206/S00471/minister-should-front-up-over-whanau-ora-funding-peters.htm

      According to Winston Peters, in statements made in Parliament too, the Refuge is a Whanau Ora provider. I assume if it were not then Turia would defer the issue to Paula Bennett. Why take the political hit when you have nothing to do with the allegations.

  4. Tena koe e hoa. The inside information I have (I do some work for a large Whanau Ora provider) is that the problem is TPK. They lack the skills to manage the projects and clash with providers, most of whom know more about managing and running the projects than TPK do. I suspect Tariana is stuck somewhere in the middle.

  5. Turia said the refuge wasn't part of a Whanau Ora Collective funded through the TPK - which is correct.

    However, the refuge got funding from a Family Violence Whanau Ora Fund in 2010/11 - a fund that Tariana Turia set up through the MSD to further promote the Whanau Ora approach.

    Technically, that fund does not exist anymore, because it was folded into the new Family-Centred Services Fund, which is open to non-Maori providers. But Peters' $80k figure refers to the 2010 fund.

    This from the Auditor-General's 2010 Briefing to the Social Services Committee:

    "Funding of $120 million over four years is being provided for Whanau Ora from reallocating
    uncommitted Pathway to Partnership funding in Vote Social Development."


    For all his sins, Peters seems to be right on the money with this one. Turia is being disingenuous.

    I suspect there is still a lot more to come out.

  6. But was this refuge funded to deliver 'other' services. The criticism seems to be that whanau Ora providers are being funded to do work they are not competent to do, which is outside their original scope of services. I haven't seen any evidence that this has occurred.

    Rather than jumping on a Winston peters bandwagon, perhaps read the contract, read the audit report first.



1. Anonymous comments will be rejected. Please use your real name or a pseudonym/moniker/etc...
2. No personal abuse. Defamatory comments will be rejected.
3. I'll reject any comment that isn't in good taste.