Whānau Ora portfolio independent of Māori Development Minister not what I envisioned- Dame Tariana Turia

By Talisa Kupenga

The creator and former leader of The Māori Party Dame Tariana Turia says the Whānau Ora portfolio being independent of the Minister of Māori Development under the new Government is not what she envisioned when she created the programe nearly ten years ago.

“Whanau Ora was never meant to be about one opportunity it was meant to be able to integrate everything; housing; health; education, all those aspects of government responsibilities, and assist our families into developing economically.

“If they [the government] stay with that premise it should work really well [otherwise] they’re just establishing another ongoing service that is determined by the state.”

Dame Turia held the portfolio at its inception when Dr Pita Sharples was Minister for Māori Development. Te Ururoa Flavell succeeded Sharples and took the portfolio under his wing; both were Ministers outside cabinet under a National government. Flavell’s successor Labour’s Nanaia Mahuta now sits inside cabinet but the portfolio remains outside with Minster for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare.

“At the end of the day it is about how the portfolio is managed and what the expectation of it is [that will make the difference],” Turia says.

“I will be watching very carefully. I would hope that every Minister, not only those two, every Minster that has responsibility for a portfolio looks really carefully at how they might make contribution towards ensuring that Whānau Ora can continue.

"Because what happened was, a separate pūtea was set aside for Whānau Ora and no other agency has put money across into it so instead of receiving resources from a whole range of state agencies, which is how it was meant to be, it’s just always been limited to that budget that was set aside in Te Puni Kokiri."

During its election campaign Labour promised an extra $20 million over four years for Whānau Ora, but in the past it has also raised concerns about delivery, transparency, monitoring and reporting of the programme.

“Labour has said all the way through they are going to review it, revise it, that it was unlikely they would continue it. This would be a big test for them because we have 46,000 families throughout the country who are engaged in Whānau Ora and the feeling I have from talking with [them] is that it’s the one programme they have really felt committed to and felt it has made a difference.”

Both The Minister for Māori Development Nanania Mahuta and Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare were approached for comment. Mahuta referred Te Kāea to Henare, who said he could not answer questions until meeting with officials for his briefing as incoming Minister.