Auditor-General will not inquire into the funding of Te Raukura (the wharewaka on Wellington’s waterfront)

30 July 2012

In April 2012, the Auditor-General was asked to investigate a number of issues relating to Te Raukura, the wharewaka built on Wellington's waterfront.

The Crown provided some of the funds for building the wharewaka. The Trust that runs it (the Wharewaka O Poneke Charitable Trust) also has an ongoing relationship with Wellington Waterfront Ltd (WWL), a council-controlled organisation owned by Wellington City Council.

We gathered a range of background information and documents from Te Puni Kōkiri and the Office of Treaty Settlements so that we could assess the concerns raised with us. We are satisfied that the Crown funds have been spent on the purpose for which they were appropriated – namely the construction of a wharewaka on Wellington’s waterfront – and have concluded that no further investigation into these issues is warranted.

We were also asked to investigate the contractual commitments between WWL and the Trust and assess whether WWL is properly enforcing those commitments. In our view, these questions are more appropriately directed to WWL in the first instance. We do not regard the information that was provided to us as sufficient to suggest that an inquiry is needed into how well that funding is being monitored and managed.

The main issues we considered are summarised below.

Did the $7 million Crown payment to help build a wharewaka come from Vote Māori Affairs?

We confirmed that Budget 2008 included an appropriation (Wharewaka – Wellington Waterfront Development) of $7 million in Vote Māori Affairs (The Estimates of Appropriations 2008/09, page 203). The appropriation was for payments to support the construction of a wharewaka on the Wellington waterfront.

Did Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK) have sufficient evidence that the Trust had mandate from Taranaki Whānui before it released $7 million of Crown funds to the Trust?

We established that the idea of building a wharewaka emerged during the Port Nicholson Block Claim negotiations to settle historical Treaty of Waitangi claims. The Crown saw the idea as having wider potential benefits, including providing a significant venue for Māori cultural events in Wellington, and economic benefits through attracting tourists. The matter was pursued outside of the negotiations, and was not part of the settlement of the Port Nicholson Block Claim. We have been told that it is common for settlement discussions to lead to other initiatives that are pursued separately, as part of ongoing government business rather than as part of the settlement. TPK told us that during the ratification hui for the settlement offer, it was made clear that the Crown intended to provide $7 million for the construction of a wharewaka as a separate matter.

Although the Crown needed to work with local Māori on the proposed wharewaka, it was not necessary to establish a formal mandate in the same way as is done for Treaty settlements.

TPK took appropriate steps to ensure that the funding for the wharewaka flowed to an appropriate legal entity. These steps included seeking assurances from several groups that the Trust had appropriate support and seeking advice from the Crown Law Office and the Treasury. It then entered into a Deed of Conditional Grant with the Wharewaka O Poneke Charitable Trust.

Was it appropriate for TPK to allow Crown funds, paid out in an agreement aligned to the Port Nicholson Block settlements, "to be used in such a way (i.e. for purposes that do not benefit Māori)"?

As stated above, the contribution from the Crown of $7 million for the building of a wharewaka at the Taranaki Street Wharf and Lagoon area was separate to the settlement of the Port Nicholson Block Claim. Although the idea for a wharewaka emerged during the negotiations, it was not part of the settlement. It was explicit that the Government was funding the initiative because it saw broader economic advantages. The decision was made by the Government (not simply TPK) and is a decision that the Government was entitled to make.