Whānau Ora commissioning model could go as Review Panel calls for submissions


Ata mārie, and welcome to māui street.

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in the news


The Labour and National parties are committing to Whānau Ora’s future, but the shape of the country’s flagship social policy remains in doubt.

Submissions to the Whānau Ora Review Panel are open with chairperson Caren Rangi (Rakahanga, Manihiki, Rarotonga and Aitutaki) making a public call for individuals, organisations and whānau to submit.

“This is a great opportunity for anyone who has an interest in Whānau Ora to share their experiences, understandings and insights of Whānau Ora that relate to the purposes of the Review,” said Rangi.

“We’re committed to hearing a wide range of views, both from those who have experience of Whānau Ora and those who have not.”

The review’s terms of reference include examining the ‘commissioning model’ and the ‘whānau-centred approach.’

Signals so far suggest the Review Panel will endorse the whānau-centred approach with Rangi going as far as saying “we’re keen to understand what the potential is for a whānau-centred approach to be applied across government.”

But the future of the commissioning model is less certain.  

The commissioning model is where the government, in this case Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK), contracts for outcomes with Māori and Pacific-led organisations outside of the public service. Tariana Turia, the former Minister for Whānau Ora, introduced the model in 2013.

Critics and supporters often argue over whether the commissioning model socialises or privatises social services with one side arguing it hands whānau power over their own lives and the other arguing it’s nothing more than an opportunity for different organisations to “clip the ticket.”

In Budget 2018 the government allocated $80m to Whānau Ora - $5m for administration on the TPK end and $75m for ‘purchasing outcomes’ from commissioning agencies. That $75m is paid out to commissioning agencies who then fund approximately 80 service providers who then assist the whānau themselves.

In other words, three organisations clip the ticket before funding reaches whānau.

New Zealand First leader and Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters is a keen critic, taking it to Turia between 2010 and 2012 for funding vague ‘whānau plans’, a rugby club in the wop wops, and so-called ‘gang affiliates’ in Dunedin. The Dominion Post revealed one whānau received $5000 to hold a hui on “spiritual balance.”

The criticism was usually over the top, but Whānau Ora’s opponents were winning and Turia introduced the commissioning model, effectively outsourcing political accountability. In the programme’s current form the responsible Minister is three steps removed, contracting to commissioning agencies who then fund providers.

Some sources within Labour are criticising this arrangement citing the Auditor-General’s 2015 report, Whānau Ora: The first four years, where it was revealed almost a third of the Whānau Ora spend went on administration, a shortcoming the commissioning model is accused of entrenching.

In 2016 Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta criticised the model for lacking a consistent measurement metric, a criticism that commissioning agency CEO John Tamihere rejected.

But despite reservations Labour is committing to the future of Whānau Ora, if not necessarily the commissioning model in particular. The Review’s terms of reference cover the programme’s mechanics, not its existence.

National is also committing to the programme’s future with Whānau Ora spokesperson Jo Hayes confirming to māui street that “National continues to support Whānau Ora” and “acknowledges that Whānau Ora was a Māori Party policy which National supported.”

But Hayes is also criticising Labour for failing to deliver on its promise to lift Whānau Ora funding, joining other prominent leaders who’ve voiced their disappointment.

“If the intention was not to give a funding increase then don’t put it in your party policy,” said Hayes.

Under the National- Māori Party government Whānau Ora funding went from $29m in 2010 to $75m in 2017.  

But Labour isn’t ruling out future funding with Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare saying – sensibly – that the review panels “recommendations… will help inform decisions on future funding.”

That funding may or may not go to commissioning agencies.

Public submissions to the Review Panel close August 15 and the Panel is scheduled to deliver its findings to Henare in early November 2018.

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in the house


The House is sitting this week.

The first government order of the day is the second reading of the Ngāti Tūwharetoa Claims Settlement Bill. It will pass unanimously.

Wednesday 1 August is ‘members’ day’ where the Electoral (Entrenchment of Māori Seats) Amendment Bill is expected to be read for a first time. Winston Peters has outlined the conditions for his support. Labour will not meet those conditions, meaning the Bill is unlikely to pass first reading.

The Māori Affairs Select Committee is not meeting this week.

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featured funding rounds


Māori business and innovation.

  • Ka Hao: Māori Digital Technology Development Fund, TPK. This fund supports the creation of high value jobs and opportunities that advance Māori in the digital technology sector. Deadline: 9 March annually.

  • Te Pūnaha Hihiko Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). This is the sixth round for the Fund, which was established to grow skills and capacity for Māori participation in science and innovation and support outcomes that benefit New Zealand. Deadline: 5 April annually.

  • Te Pūnaha Hiringa: Māori Innovation Fund, MBIE. This $3m per year fund invests in initiatives that contribute to achieving the goals and priorities in He kai kei aku ringa (the Crown-Māori Economic Growth Partnership) and the Business Growth Agenda. NOTE: this fund may be reformed or abolished.

  • Customary Fisheries Research Fund, Ministry for Primary Industries. The Customary Fisheries Research Fund is available to assist tangata whenua to manage their customary fisheries by providing financial assistance to undertake fisheries research. Deadline: this funding round is open and closes in September.

  • Getting Started Grant, Callaghan Innovation; Are you in the early stages of, or new to, R&D? A Getting Started Grant will give you a kick-start to help you take your product, process or service solution from development through to commercialisation. Deadline: open-ended.

  • Project Grant, Callaghan Innovation; Is your business new to, or trying to expand your R&D? A Project Grant can help you take on larger or more challenging R&D; Deadline: open-ended.

  • Growth Grant, Callaghan Innovation; Is your business an experienced R&D performer? This three year grant will help you increase your R&D investment; Deadline: open-ended.

  • Trade finance, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. Trade finance helps provide exporters with finance security and advice on exporting. Deadline: open-ended.

Provincial Growth Fund

The government has committed to investing $1b each year on regional economic development. The fund aims to lift productivity potential in the provinces and its priorities are to enhance economic development opportunities, create sustainable jobs, enable Māori to reach their full potential, boost social inclusion and participation, build resilient communities, and help meet New Zealand’s climate change targets;

There are no application rounds for the fund. You can complete an Expression of Interest form explaining what you are proposing to do, or you can discuss your proposal with MBIE or central government officials. If you have a well developed idea that requires under $1m of central government funding your project can be funded without Cabinet approval. Completed Expressions of Interest and applications can be emailed to PGF@mbie.govt.nz. If your project requires over $1 million of central government funding, contact MBIE at PGF@mbie.govt.nz to discuss the application process.

Senior staff make decisions on projects less than $1m, with four delegated ministers approving those between $1m and $20m, and projects over $20m going to Cabinet.


A final reminder: this is the second to last free edition. From next week māui street becomes a paid subscription newsletter. To sign up to a paid subscription – or convert a free subscription to a paid one – click here and scroll to the top of the page.