Merepeka Raukawa-Tawa, one of five distinguished wahine to have launched a legal challenge at purported redirection of Whanau Ora funding, is to meet with Prime Minister Jacinda Adern.
Merepeka contacted Rotorua Now to confirm the pair will meet at the Prime Minister’s instigation though a timeframe has not been confirmed.
The news follows an announcement earlier today that whānau throughout New Zealand are set to benefit from an extra $3 million to go directly to Whānau Ora Commissioning Agencies, says the Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare.
Including previous funding boosts, the agencies will now receive $87 million this year between them.
Earlier this week, concerns that the Government is directing Whanau Ora funding to projects it leads and are not being prioritised prompted an urgent claim to the Waitangi Tribunal.
Rotorua’s Merepeka Raukawa-Tait was one of the five distinguished wahine to support the claim.
Merepeka, a Rotorua district councillor of nine years, is Whanau Ora's commissioning chair.
“The action taken was after months of deliberation by leaders concerned at what we saw as an attempt to bring Whanau Ora under government control,” Merepeka told Rotorua Now today from Ratana.
“It is successful because of the commitment of our foot solders working in their communities.
“When last year promised funding was then redirected to government-backed projects we knew we had to be taken seriously.
“All those taking the claim know that government agencies have never been successful in delivering long term successful social outcomes for Maori. Zilch.”
The other members Dame Tariana, Dame Naida Glavish, Lady Tureiti Moxon and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi have with Merepeka launched the legal action, saying the Government’s handling of Whānau Ora has breached the Treaty.
Concerns at the delivery of the Whanau Ora funding prompted a letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in November last year.
But they did not receive a response.
“We are naturally disappointed about the lack of a reply to our letter but I understand there is something now in the post,” Merepeka says.
In Budget 2019, $20 million was earmarked by the Minister to explore new localised Whānau Ora commissioning. That process is now complete and allocations will be announced shortly.
A remaining $3 million will be redirected back into the commissioning agencies this year, with consideration to a possible extension.
“We know that Whānau Ora is changing the lives of thousands of families,” Peeni says.
“We are proud to build on the gains already made by allocating an additional $3 million in the current financial year to the three existing agencies who deliver this important work.”
In 2018, an independent review found that, as an approach, Whānau Ora works.
It also identified increasing demand for Whānau Ora and suggested exploring other commissioning options – specifically local commissioning in the North Island.
This would mean funding community organisations directly to invest in whānau and support them to achieve their aspirations.
It is not known whether the group will drop its legal action.