Native Affairs - Feathering the Nest Part 1

By Mihingarangi Forbes

Over the last 20 years, 1 billion taxpayer dollars has been directed towards Kōhanga Reo. 

For seven weeks Native Affairs has investigated allegations of financial mismanagement by some at the very top of the Kōhanga Reo movement.

For seven weeks the Kōhanga Reo National Trust has refused to answer our questions about how it's managing taxpayer money meant for mokopuna.

Not only did it refuse to answer the questions raised by our investigation, it went to the High Court to try and stop us broadcasting our report.

On Wednesday the Trust backed down, but by taking court action, Trust officials were ordered to make sworn statements about the spending.  Those affidavits raise serious questions about the use of public funds and they're contained in our report.

Native Affairs pursued this story because the Kōhanga Reo Movement is recognised as one of the single most powerful forces in reviving te reo Māori me ōna tikanga. 

30 years ago, the Kōhanga Reo Movement sowed its first seed at Pukeatua near Wellington.  From there language nests spread reigniting our peoples passion to regenerate our native tongue.

Not only did the language nests provide learning, Kōhanga often double as a place of refuge for our tamariki, a place where they can be fed kept warm and nourished.  

Last month Native Affairs reported how the Trust has $13mil in the bank while Kōhanga Reo around the country struggle to get by.  How the Trust extends personal loans to its staff and directors.

This special report takes us further into the personal expenditure of two people at the top of the Kōhanga Trust and its wholly-owned subsidiary,Te Pātaka Ōhanga.

They are Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and her daughter in-law, Lynda Tawhiwhirangi.

It details spending never normally seen by anyone outside the Kōhanga elite.  The records cover only a 15-month period - it's a snapshot of what appears to be a culture of extravagance.

Here is Part 1 of our special investigation.