Election 2014

14 Nov 2011

Turia says Whanau Ora crucial to post-election talks

8:42 pm on 14 November 2011

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says expansion of Whanau Ora will form a key part of its post-election negotiations.

Whanau Ora, a flagship policy of the Maori Party, was launched last year with start-up funding of $134 million to deliver social services to at-risk families.

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The funding is intended to administer, research and evaluate Whanau Ora, which places mentors or co-ordinators with families to help them empower themselves.

There have been mixed messages from the National Party on Monday about whether it would support widening the programme.

In an election debate on welfare on Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme, National's social development spokesperson Paula Bennett would not guarantee expanding Whanau Ora if National leads the next government after the election on 26 November.

But National leader John Key later said it will not be up to Ms Bennett to sign off on the policy and it is a matter for negotiation with the Maori Party.

Ms Bennett told the programme on Monday that Whanua Ora is not part of National's policy. She said the party is still assessing it and would not guarantee its expansion in the coming three years.

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"I think anyone would say $134 million is a lot of money, so we haven't got that as part of our policy. But I can't tell you what will happen in a year, 18 months' time."

Ms Bennett said she believes the Government would continue to support Whanau Ora if families are moving ahead, fewer people are receiving welfare payments and more are in jobs.

Tariana Turia, the minister responsible for Whanau Ora, was unable to take part in the debate, but later told Radio New Zealand that brokering its expansion will be crucial after the election.

"Absolutely, it will. We've always been very clear where we have succeeded in these first three years. Our decision, and it's in our policy document, was always to grow Whanau Ora - and we will."

Mrs Turia told the Checkpoint programme that the Maori Party has always been clear that it wants Whanau Ora to be widened to include more service providers.

Labour and Greens' view

Labour's social development spokesperson Annette King told Nine to Noon she has no problem with the concept of Whanau Ora.

"If it's evaluated and shown to be working, I would have no difficulty in supporting it. But we're very good in New Zealand of coming up with the next shiny policy idea, shoving everything else aside and saying this is the way forward.

"What we don't do enough of is to evaluate how they've worked and whether we should take them further."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei told the programme she agrees the idea is good, but questions its timing.

"In good times yes, you could have an experiment with that policy and implement it over a period of time, evaluate it to check if it worked. But in difficult times, all they've done is taken money out of existing providers."