Media release: Auditor-General - More to do to support Whānau Ora

14 February 2023: The public service needs clear expectations for progressing whanau-centred approaches where appropriate. Also, Te Puni Kōkiri needs a clearer and stronger mandate for broadening whānau-centred approaches.

A new report by Auditor-General John Ryan has found limited progress by the public sector on supporting Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches.

To address this, says Mr Ryan, the public service needs clear expectations for progressing whānau-centred approaches where appropriate. In addition, Te Puni Kōkiri needs a clearer and stronger mandate for broadening whānau-centred approaches.

Whānau Ora was established in 2010. Since then, reviews of Whānau Ora have found it has been successful for many whānau, including the Auditor-General’s 2015 audit and a 2018 ministerial review.

In 2019, the Minister for Whānau Ora said he wanted public organisations to increase their investment in Whānau Ora and support and implement more whānau-centred approaches generally.

Mr Ryan wanted to know how well Te Puni Kōkiri and other public organisations are supporting Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches.

The report published today found that some public organisations have taken steps towards supporting and implementing whānau-centred approaches. However, much of this work involves trialling small-scale and time-limited initiatives. The Auditor-General has not seen a significant shift towards supporting or implementing whānau-centred services and initiatives where it is appropriate to do so.

“This means many whānau might not be getting all the support available to address their needs and help them achieve their aspirations,” says Mr Ryan.

The report concluded that some public sector processes and practices need to change to make it easier to implement these types of approaches where they are appropriate. For example, auditors were told that contracts are often too short or overly prescriptive about what services should be provided. Public organisations often work independently of each other, which makes it difficult to plan and fund approaches that respond to the interrelated aspirations and needs of whānau and achieve the best outcomes.

The barriers to supporting and implementing whānau-centred approaches are not insurmountable. There is work under way that indicates public organisations intend to address some of these issues. For example, the Social Wellbeing Board is overseeing work to implement a new relational approach to how public organisations commission social services.

“I acknowledge that it can be challenging to change public sector norms and conventions,” says Mr Ryan. “This can even be the case when there is consensus that significant changes are needed.

“I have made recommendations that are intended to support the public service to broaden its understanding and development of approaches that give whānau the ability to achieve their aspirations and live well.”


A two-page summary is also available for this report.