The Charities Services decision to require the Waipareira Trust to claw back $385,000 of interest-free loans from John Tamihere brings renewed attention to the links between Whānau Ora and the Trust.
Revelations earlier this month in the Herald that the social services charity Waipareira Trust had agreed with Charities Services to cease making political donations and take steps to claw back $385,000 of interest-free loans made to its chief executive, John Tamihere, has put the controversial politician and media commentator back in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
It’s not the first time that a financial scandal has hit the trust or Tamihere. In October 2004, the then Labour Party MP was accused of dishonest financial dealings, including in relation to a $195,000 golden goodbye from the Waipareira Trust that he accepted when he was elected to Parliament in 1999.
As political pressure increased on Prime Minister Helen Clark, Tamihere resigned his ministerial portfolios. An inquiry was held into whether tax had been paid on the payment and other matters relating to the trust. At the time, ACT MP Rodney Hide wanted the inquiry into Tamihere to also cover a housing loan that he had received from the trust in 1991. Tamihere was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing in relation to those matters.
In the early 2000s the Waipareira Trust and a property developer, West Harbour Holdings entered into a joint venture to build a 20-storey hotel at Gulf Harbour. It involved a $500,000 loan, made in 2008, which enabled Tamihere to buy a $1.36 million home on the Te Atatu Peninsula. The funds were raised after the Waipareira Trust released a mortgage that it held over a townhouse which was then sold and the proceeds loaned to Tamihere.
The dispute ended up in Court after West Harbour Holdings went into liquidation. Justice Andrews stated, “There is no documentation recording the loan to Mr Tamihere. I am satisfied that, just as there is a dispute as to who made the loan, and at what amount, there is a dispute as to what interest, if any, is payable. That dispute can only be resolved on the evidence, at trial.”
At one point, financial forecasts from Waterstone Insolvency indicated that the Waipareira Trust faced an expected shortfall of $2.2 million on its $4.6 million claim relating to the failed property development company.
Since then the Waipareira Trust has grown significantly and become a key service provider for Whānau Ora.
Whānau Ora was created in 2010 under the oversight of Dame Tariana Turia, who was tasked with developing the new model and working with other ministers to implement a cross-governmental approach. In essence, Whānau Ora is described as a Māori approach to delivering social and health services to whānau, created to address systemic inequities that have resulted in poorer outcomes for Māori.
In 2014 the approach evolved with the establishment of Whānau Ora commissioning agencies that would invest directly in their communities. The intention was that the creation of these agencies would help to ensure funding decisions were made closer to the communities they serve.
Whānau Ora commissioning agencies are contracted to fund and support initiatives that deliver Whānau Ora outcomes. They act as brokers in matching the needs and aspirations of whānau with funding and support that will help them achieve their aspirations.
There are only three Whānau Ora commissioning agencies in the country. The North Island is covered by Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency. The South Island is covered by Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu. And Pasifika families across New Zealand are covered by Pasifika Futures.
For the North Island, the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency is actually the trading name of a company called Te Pou Matakana Limited. The Patrons of that entity include Dame Tariana Turia, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait and John Tamihere’s father-in-law, Sir Mason Durie. The chief executive is John Tamihere and the chief operating officer is his wife, Awerangi Tamihere.
According to information from the Companies Office, the company is owned 88% by the National Urban Māori Authority (NUMA), 9% by the Waipareira Trust and 3% by the Manukau Urban Māori Authority (MUMA).
In relation to NUMA, the chief executive is John Tamihere and the chairperson is Lady Tureiti Moxon. It’s website describes itself as, “a proactive collective influencing and advancing Māori economic and social development. NUMA’s primary goal is to advocate, promote and develop Māori achievement through strengthening and sustaining whānau success through a dedicated workforce and innovative solutions.”
In relation to the Waipareira Trust, the chief executive is again John Tamihere and the chief operating officer is his wife, Awerangi Tamihere - mirroring their roles with the commissioning agency. Indeed, transactions between the commissioning agency and the trust are considered to be related party transactions for the purposes of the trust’s financial accounts.
Finally, in relation to MUMA, the chief executive is Tania Rangiheuea. Set up over 30 years ago, MUMA describes itself as one of a founding group of pan-tribal organisations across New Zealand that set out to foster the economic, social and community development of Māori living in the cities. The first chief executive was Dame June Temuranga Jackson, and in 2009, Willie succeeded his mother as chief executive until he entered Parliament in 2017.
The Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, NUMA and the Waipareira Trust are all located at the same Henderson commercial address and share administrative and back office support.
Undoubtedly it is a tight-knit group of individuals. Indeed, Tamihere’s father-in-law Sir Mason Durie was tapped to lead the steering group that made recommendations for the ministerial appointment of board members for the Māori Health Authority Board. In September 2021, Ministers Little and Henare made a joint announcement confirming the board members.
The Board, co-chaired by Tipa Mahuta, included NUMA Chair Lady Tureiti Moxon and Tamihere’s wife, Awerangi Tamihere of the Waipareira Trust. A NUMA press release confirmed, “Both Moxon and Tamihere were appointed alongside 7 others to the Board of the Māori Health Authority on the recommendation of Tā Mason Durie’s steering group that identified the best possible candidates.”
And under the current Labour government, the Waipareira Trust has had a golden run. In its accounts for the year ended 30 June 2016, the trust had revenue from services of $21,891,765, and had cash or term deposits of $6,950,998.
In its most recent accounts for the year ended 30 June 2022, the trust had revenue from services of $69,544,616, and had cash or term deposits of $50,379,806.
Over that six year period, administrative costs have ballooned from $2,138,592 to $5,919,525. And although senior management headcount has only increased from 14 to 15.25, remuneration and benefits for senior management have increased from $2,013,194 to $4,390,413.
For the financial year ended 30 June 2022, transactions from Te Pou Matakana Limited (trading as the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency) to the Waipareira Trust totalled $40,457,839.
That amount is included as a related party transaction in the trust’s latest accounts and is made up of the following line items:
Whānau Ora commissioning funding - $16,873,845
Annual management fees - $6,000,000
Covid-19 funding - $10,444,000
Research and evaluation funding - $2,000,000
IT licenses and support - $3,681,529
Lease expenses - $154,455
Operating funding - $1,304,010
The management fee alone is an eye-watering amount and seems difficult to justify in the context of the services that the commissioning agency is seeking to fund.
Immediately after this year’s Budget, Minister for Whānau Ora, Peeni Henare issued a press release in which he stated, “Budget 2023 reflects the critical importance of Whānau Ora.”
“Whānau Ora navigators are our connectors to our whānau. They are often the first to recognise the needs for whānau and helping them to achieve their aspirations.
“The job they do is so important, we are committing to their future with an additional $168.1 million over four years.”
“This Government has always recognised this and that is why we have increased funding by 145 percent since 2017,” Peeni Henare said.
Despite the well-scripted press releases and slick advertising campaigns, many Māori believe that not enough funding from Whānau Ora is making its way to those in need. Their concerns seem to be justified.
Thomas Cranmer is a pseudonym. He is a lawyer with over 25 years experience in some of the world's biggest law firms. He divides his time between the UK and NZ. You can read and support Cranmer's Substack here