The Maori Party has defended a Whanau Ora grant which paid for a 'family reunion', despite New Zealand First leader Winston Peters questioning the entire premise of the scheme.
Whanau Ora is the Maori Party's flagship programme and aims to help families by redirecting funds rather than having multiple agencies working at loggerheads to each other.
In the past questions have been raised about other successful programmes being cut in order to fund Whanau Ora.
Yesterday Peters said about $6 million of tax-payer cash had been "squandered" on a Whanau Ora programme that funded "family reunions".
An official Whanau Ora report showed more than 200 applications for the scheme - known as "Whanau Integration, Innovation and Engagement funding" - had been accepted, he said.
You have to question the benefit of funding family reunions as opposed to funding, say, uhhm, real social problems. This is bad news for the Maori Party because it undermines the case for Whanau Ora – a case the Maori Party never really made. Although I agree with and support Whanau Ora in principle, I don’t think the Maori Party sold the idea to New Zealand. The party highlighted a structural problem in social service funding and delivery, but Tariana Turia (and to a lesser degree Pita Sharples) never really convinced the public why Whanau Ora was the right response. As a result, support for the program is soft.
Expect Whanau Ora to be a common theme with Winston Peters. Peters has been waging an ideological campaign against the program for some time now. He attacked the program during the election campaign and, more recently, managed to steer a RNZ interview on s9 and the Maori Party into a tirade against Whanau Ora. This isn’t entirely unexpected, Whanau Ora doesn’t play well with Peter’s base, nor blue collar rednecks (Peter’s wider base), but most significantly the Maori Party is an easy target. Poor performers in the House and politically incompetent, the Maori Party is easy meat for Peters. Expect more of this from Winston Peters.
On a side note, none of the Maori Party's MPs were in the House yesterday. I don't know why Turia wasn't, but Pita Sharples and Te Ururoa Flavell were attending the opening of a new Kura Kaupapa in Kawerau (Sharples is the Associate Minister of Education and Flavell is the local MP) - I don't think they were hiding from Winston like some have suggested.